The North Pole: Cold and beauty
The climate of the Arctic is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. There is a large amount of variability in climate across the Arctic, but all regions experience extremes of solar radiation in both summer and winter.
What is the climate like in the Arctic?
The Arctic is generally a very cold, arid region. Sea-ice coverage is near record low this year, with most of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice. To find ice, researchers typically look for ice floats in the ocean, called “sub-ice”. On the surface of the ocean, a layer of open water (open ocean) is typically about 6 to 10 inches deep. The Arctic Ocean is dominated by the open ocean; most of the ice is confined to the winter months. At the poles, the open ocean is replaced by an ice-covered ocean. Ice is sometimes visible during winter, but ice does not normally cover the open ocean at the poles. This year, however, ice cover has been unusually high during the summer months. How long is ice usually present in the Arctic?
What extreme weather can you expect to see?
This year, the Northern Hemisphere experienced exceptionally cold weather, with the eastern United States, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia all experiencing temperatures colder than average for mid-October. The cold temperature of zero degrees Celsius was recorded in far eastern Greenland, with temperatures around 1 degree or lower in other areas. On Oct. 27, temperatures were as cold as -21 degrees Celsius near Novosibirsk in Siberia. Keep in mind, of course, that these temperatures are measured in the arctic, and are only valid for the landmass. It is not uncommon for temperatures to exceed +30 degrees Celsius over the summers in Siberia, and over the ocean, temperatures can be even warmer.
What is the temperature like?
Scientists use surface temperature as the best proxy for the Arctic climate. In July, the surface of the Arctic is just as hot as southern Spain! The average surface temperature is generally between -50 and -60°C during the day and between -30 and -40°C at night. To give you an idea of just how cold that is: in Greenland and Antarctica, temperatures can reach a measly -20°C. In the polar regions, the average temperature is about two degrees colder than in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. On average, the coldest month is February, when the air pressure is so low that the land can only support about a third of its weight and the temperature can drop to -60°C. In the summer, however, the temperatures increase dramatically.
What is the wind like?
The North Pole is an area of strong winds. Wind speeds on the North Pole vary from very calm at higher latitudes to 30 meters per second (90 miles per hour) in polar regions. The observed wind speed at the North Pole (average: 22 m/s) is higher than the previously published record from 2000. The average annual wind speed in the central Arctic is highest during the summer and lowest in the winter, while the wind speeds from the low-latitude oceans are higher in the summer and lower in winter. A new observation record from the Norwegian Polar Institute at the North Pole for summer (12 June to 30 August) shows wind speeds in the average range of the wind tunnel model on which our previous wind speed record was based.
What is the sun like?
The sun is a hot mass of extremely hot gas. While it shines it emits intense radiation that can cause heat through reflection and radiant heat. However, in the Arctic, the snow and ice are thick enough to block the incoming radiation and trap the heat. This causes the heat to stay in the immediate region, rather than moving into the atmosphere. The ice and snow act as a radiative cooling system that stores heat and releases it later in the winter. This time of year, the sun sets between 4:30 and 5:30 pm, setting the region up for deep darkness and the shortest day of the year. The temperature swings during the day are also extreme. In December and January, the temperature is about -4 and -15 C, respectively.
In summary, a clear conclusion from the study on the Polar Vortex of 2013-14 is that long-term global warming is not responsible for the peculiar behavior of the Arctic Polar Vortex. However, there is a general scientific consensus that the recent warming of the Arctic is partly responsible.