AUG 22, 2019 6:17 PM PDT

Lightning strikes in the Arctic

The US National Weather Service has reported some unusual weather in the Arctic circle. The NWS station in Fairbanks, Alaska, detected several lightning strikes only 300 miles from the North Pole last week. The lightning comes as a sign of the climatic changes that are occurring in the Arctic – and at a rate faster than anywhere else on the planet.

“This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory,” the NWS stated. And while lightning isn’t that, that rare, Fairbanks meteorologist Ryan Metzger commented, “I wouldn’t say it’s never happened before, but it’s certainly unusual, and it piqued our attention.”

The NWS reported that 48 lightning strikes hit an area of sea ice or open ocean waters mixed with ice, at a latitude close to 85 degrees north, 120 degrees east. Experts say that strikes are a symptom of climate change, as the atmosphere near the pole had to have warm and moist enough air to produce thunderstorms. "The loss of sea ice across the Arctic has led to sea surface temperatures that are much above average for this time of year, which may be contributing to unusually unstable air masses being pushed across the central Arctic Ocean," reports the Washington Post. 

Indeed, the Arctic circle has seen significant climate devastation, with record-breaking temperatures in Alaska in July exceeding 90 degrees in Anchorage, and extreme ice-melt in Greenland that is thought to have sent 197 billion tons of ice-sheet water in the ocean. Wildfires have also been burning throughout the Arctic at unprecedented rates.

The region is also experiencing record-low sea ice levels, as the Arctic sea ice is currently at its lowest in at least 1,500 years, reports the Guardian.

Sources: The Guardian, The Washington Post

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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