The North Pole looks like it has just spent the day above freezing. Warm air injected from a major North Atlantic storm has flooded across the ice sheet at the top of the world.
The direct cause of the “heatwave” was Storm Frank, which would have been called a hurricane had it been within the tropics, and during the season. Its violence has been reflected by wind gusts on the coast of England of 120 kilometres an hour. In the Cairngorms, the tallest mountain range in Scotland, a gust of 180kph was recorded.
Off the coast of Iceland, as Frank passed, hurricane force winds produced waves in excess of 17 metres high. At that time, the central pressure of the storm was about 928 millibars. This figure makes it the third lowest extra-tropical storm pressure seen in the North Atlantic.
The severe weather in the East Fjords of Iceland was among the worst that residents have experienced. The situation was bad in Eskifjordur, where high seas and hurricane force winds threatened the existence of the marina.
This major winter storm has been helped in its development by a faster-than-usual jetstream, which is still streaking along just below the stratosphere at about 370kph. Unusually, the jetstream currently points northwards, from the British Isles to northeast Greenland. Storm Frank has been steered by it in the same direction.
This combination of strong southerly winds in the upper atmosphere and Frank’s hurricane strength makes an unstoppable pump of warmth over the Arctic. It’s difficult to confirm weather conditions at the North Pole itself but records suggest that it is very rare to see such a rise in temperature. This is at least 25C above normal.
As far as we can tell, there are only three recorded incidences of a temperature above freezing in December, since 1948. If this warmth lasts into January 1, it will be unprecedented. There are no recorded occasions of the North Pole being above 0C in January, February or March.