Extreme heat at both poles just as IPCC talks begin
In Antarctica, it became as much as 40 degrees Celsius warmer than normal at one monitoring station last weekend, and at another station the heat record for the time of year was broken by 15 degrees. Around the North Pole, in Spitsbergen and Lapland, it became 30 degrees warmer than usual in some places.
And that’s no exaggeration from scientists who want to draw attention to the next climate report, assures glaciologist and meteorologist Peter Kuipers Munneke (University of Utrecht). “It’s very special and really absurd actually.”
The cause of the heat, both above and below the globe, is unusually warm air being pushed far north and far south by still high pressure areas. At the South Pole, an “atmospheric river,” as meteorologists call it, creates warm, cloudy weather. Near the North Pole, meanwhile, balmy air creates temperatures you would normally expect much later in the year.
“Especially in Antarctica, it’s really a species abnormal event† Very exceptional,” says Kuipers Munneke. “Around the North Pole, it’s not the highest temperature on record, but we are seeing more and more of these kinds of extremely mild events. It’s insanely hot at this time of year. His colleague Aarnout van Delden points out that in any case the heat seems to pass the North Pole itself.
Records are broken as the Arctic begins to warm after winter and Antarctica is expected to cool rapidly towards the winter season. It is precisely at these pivot points between summer and winter that the temperature at the poles is sensitive to variations in air flows, explains Kuipers Munneke, because the sun is still quite low. “If it were to ever happen, it would be in one of those shoulder seasons.”
For example, the heat wave in the Far North is deeply linked to the mild weather here, says Van Delden. The cause is an area of high pressure that is currently over Scandinavia. “It happens quite often in March, April and May,” says Van Delden.
As a result, the cold arctic air is drawn towards southern and eastern Europe, while in our regions it is exceptionally mild and the mild air moves towards Lapland. For example, it is expected to be twice as cold in Athens this week as in Scotland, and it snowed in Turkey and Cyprus last weekend as the Netherlands basked in the sun.
At the South Pole, the heat wave will have few consequences. In the meteorological stations where the records were measured, it remained well below zero despite the “heat”. And the peak was short-lived: meanwhile, after a few days, the temperature drops again. In Antarctica, the atmospheric river will mainly bring snowfall, Kuipers Munneke expects.
Secretary General Petteri Taalas opened the 56th official meeting of the IPCC’s climate expert group on Monday in sunny and mild Geneva. Over the next two weeks, government officials will discuss the precise text of the final section of the new IPCC report, the part that deals with greenhouse gas emissions.
The sub-report will present, among other things, developments in the field of CO2-capture, widely seen as absolutely necessary to keep global temperature below the agreed warming of 1.5 degrees.
“The clear message is that we need to commit more to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Taalas said during the opening. “At the moment we are not aiming for the 1.5 degree target.”
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