Temperatures in the Arctic are predicted to rise nearly 50 degrees above normal from Thursday under the spell of a pre-Christmas heat wave. It means the frozen tundra is racing close to a melting point.
The surging warmth in the past two months has already left scientists jittery, as escalating temperatures are feared to hit ice formation or coverage next summer and bring it down to record low levels. More warming trends are hitting the region as a result of climate change effects.
Walt Meier, a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said the current warmth is an offshoot of fluctuations in the jet stream that is passing frigid air to North America and parts of the Arctic.
However, stark climate change indicators are setting off alarm bells. The record low polar sea ice is a big concern and the heat wave of November has led to the region losing 19,000 square miles of sea ice in less than a week, which was described as "almost unprecedented occurrence" by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
There is worry that despite the North Pole lying in darkness after the Sun left in late October, high temperatures are going to reign the Christmas season.
Impact On Ice Freezing
Concerns are up that the high warmth would lead to a delayed "freeze-up" of ice in the Arctic Ocean than usual.
Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic Research Program for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said ice coverage would fall to record levels in the spring and summer.
Warming is likely to go up as less ice would be left to reflect the Sun's rays and darkness would mean the ocean absorbing more heat.
"We're going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely," Mathis said in an interview.
Meanwhile, a new study released by researchers linked the abnormal Arctic temperatures to climate change induced by human activities.
"A warm episode like the one we are currently observing is still a rare event in today's climate," said Friederike E.L. Otto, one of the researchers.
The senior scientist at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford said it would be an extremely unlikely event without the effects of climate change.
Arctic Heat Wave
The reasons of Arctic heat wave were described variously including "powerhouse storm east of Greenland" pushing warm air to the Arctic.
With traditional temperature buffer of sea ice absent, the warm air is being pushed northward.
Warming trends analyzed by scientists related with the outlet "Climate Central" noted the low sea ice levels and unprecedented heat waves as "extremely unlikely ... in the absence of human-induced climate change."
They warned these events are going to become a common occurrence if urgent action is not taken to halt climate change and control greenhouse gas emissions.
"If nothing is done to slow climate change, by the time global warming reaches 2 ºC (3.6 ºF), events like this winter would become common at the North Pole, happening every few years," the scientists wrote.
In November, an Arctic Resilience Report projected major "tipping points" with catastrophic effects from the warming, including rapid polar melting. The World Meteorological Organization is expecting 2016 to surpass the hottest year title of 2015.