Whilst here in the UK we are struggling with the biting cold caused by the 'Beast from the East', the cold weather front crossing to our shores from Siberia, it's a different story in the Arctic.

Whilst there won't be any sunlight at the North Pole until early March, a heatwave in the Artic is actually the cause of the extreme wintry weather we're seeing here in the UK at the moment.  Temperatures in Siberia are up to 35C higher than normal for this time of year, while 2018 has already seen Greenland experiencing 61 hours when the temperature has been above freezing.  That's three times longer than any in other year on record.

Temperatures at the world's most northerly land-based weather station, which is at Cape Morris Jesup in Greenland, just 440 miles from the North Pole, have recently been higher than those in London.

It's not unusual for there to be occasional spikes in temperature in the Arctic.  What is causing alarm for scientists is that this event has lasted much longer than usual, while such high temperatures have not been seen in the high Arctic since the 1950s.

The polar vortex is a ring of powerful winds around the Arctic that keep it cold by deflecting other warmer weather systems away from the Pole.  A big difference in temperatures between those in the Arctic and those at lower latitudes is essential to keep the vortex going.  But as the Arctic is warming much more quickly than it is further south, that temperature difference is becoming smaller.  If temperatures in the Arctic continue to rise more quickly than temperatures further south, it could mean that in future, the polar vortex will weaken further, sucking in more warm air and throwing out more cold fronts, like the 'Beast from the East'.

The massive increase in Arctic temperatures that is currently being observed is still an isolated event at the moment and it's far too early to predict whether it marks a permanent shift in weather patterns or it's just a temporary blip.  But what we do know, thanks to NASA, is that Arctic sea ice is now melting at a rate of over 13% per 10 years.  That leaves more open water exposed, which means that temperatures increase further, because dark water reflects the sun's heat much less than white ice in something called the 'albedo effect'.  We're still trying to understand how much climate change is going to affect us, but this is certainly giving climate scientists plenty to think about.

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