Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides

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The temperature difference from normal over the Arctic averaged over the next five days in the GFS model forecast. (University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer)

(This story published Wednesday afternoon, was updated Thursday morning.)

While the Eastern United States simmers in some of its warmest February weather ever recorded, the Arctic is also stewing in temperatures more than 45 degrees above normal. This latest huge temperature spike in the Arctic is another striking indicator of its rapidly transforming climate.

On Monday and Tuesday, the northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland, experienced more than 24 hours of temperatures above freezing according to the Danish Meteorological Institute. “How weird is that?” tweeted Robert Rohde, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. “Well it’s Arctic winter. The sun set in October and won’t be seen again until March. Perpetual night, but still above freezing.”

This thaw occurred as a pulse of extremely mild air shot through the Greenland Sea.

Warm air is spilling into the Arctic from all sides. On the opposite end of North America, abnormally mild air also poured over northern Alaska on Tuesday, where the temperature in Utqiaġvik, previously known as Barrow, soared to a record high of 31 degrees (minus-1 Celsius), 40 degrees (22 Celsius) above normal.

The warmth over Alaska occurred as almost one-third of the ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s West Coast vanished in just over a week during the middle of February, InsideClimateNews reported. Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist based in Alaska, posted that the overall sea ice extent on Feb. 20 was the lowest on a record by a long shot.
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The lack of ice has real consequences for villages along the Bering Sea whose shores are normally protected from big storms and their giant waves. Without the ice as a buffer, waves can hammer the coastline and damage homes and buildings, as this video from the village of Diomede, Alaska, shot on Feb. 20 illustrates:

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