Freak Warm Spell Surges Temperatures 50+ Degrees Above Average in Greenland

Jonathan Belles
Published: December 1, 2017

Well-above average temperatures pooled in the Arctic on Nov. 29. The white line separates sub-freezing air to the north and air that is above freezing to the south.

Temperatures skyrocketed above freezing in parts of northern Greenland on Wednesday as a surge of warm air from the Atlantic poured northward. 

A high temperature of 4.7 degrees Celsius, roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, was reported Wednesday at Qaanaaq Airport, along the far northwest coast of Greenland at a latitude of about 77.5 degrees north, about 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Maximum temperatures (degrees Celsius) on Nov. 29, 2017. The red arrow denotes Qaanaaq Airport. Parts of northwest Greenland rose above freezing thanks to strong low pressure over northern Canada and warmer-than-average ocean temperatures to the South.

That equates to temperatures roughly 50 degrees above average in northern Greenland for late November, where temperatures are usually in the minus 20s and minus 30s Fahrenheit. 

(MORE: Parts of Siberia were Colder Than Minus 60 Degrees Fahrenheit, and It's Only November)

This tongue of warmer air arrived by means of strong southerly winds sandwiched between a strong low pressure system located over northern Canada and a strong high pressure system located near east-central Canada. 

Warm temperatures from the ocean and favorable winds aided the near-freezing temperatures as far north as northern Greenland.

Also contributing to the warmth were ocean temperatures 6-10 degrees above average between southern Greenland and adjacent portions of eastern Canada. 

A northward extension of ice-free water in Baffin Bay, not that atypical for late November, extended along Greenland's west coast to the south of Qaanaaq, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Estimated sea-ice extent (white) compared to the 1981-2010 average extent (yellow line) on Nov. 29, 2017, during the freak warm event over northwest Greenland.

As strange as this sounds, last November and again last December, near or above-freezing air surged as far north as the North Pole.


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