North Pole is a strange and beautiful place.

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Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 4:10 am | Updated: 9:34 am, Tue Feb 4, 2014.

Santa is now home in the chill Arctic but he undoubtedly enjoyed working in the temperate and tropical climates that cover most of the planet. But while it is very cold by our Florida standards in the Arctic it is sometimes much warmer than you may think.

Unlike the South Pole the Arctic has a climate that is moderated by the waters of the Arctic Ocean. The average temperature is -14, which is plenty cold. Global warming is projected to bring the average temperature to +14 by the end of the 21 century, which is a big change. In fact the climate of the Arctic is warming faster than any other place on earth. Still, even today, at times in the summer the southern Arctic temperatures could be judged by some to be sweater weather. Highs can reach into the 50 and even the North Pole has seen a recorded high of 41 degrees. Streams can flow and grasses can grow.

Of course, much of the Arctic never rises above freezing. Ice, typically near 10 foot thick, covers much of the North Pole. The ice is a very important regulator of the Arctic temperature and is why the ice depth is being closely monitored by scientists. Studies have shown a reduction in the ice cover is likely a function of Global Warming and has contributed to sea level rise. In a few decades the Arctic Ocean might be ice free in the summer. The reduction of the ice and snow cover has a large impact on the global temperature of the planet. Ice reflects back to space about 60% to 90% of the suns heat and helps to lower the global temperatures.  Without ice our temperatures would be higher.

The expression "too cold to snow" is usually not very true. There may be other reasons to snow not to fall but too low a temperature is generally not a problem...except in the coldest Arctic. When the temperatures fall to -40 it is very hard to pump enough water vapor into the atmosphere to get appreciable snowfall. You can however get a wonderful and unusual sight called snow needles.  This is essentially a frozen fog. Imagine a fog of ice crystals gently fall to the ground!

Oh, and lets not forget the 24 hour sun. In the summer the sun never sets in the Arctic. Then in the winter it never shines. This is caused by the orbit of the earth. And speaking about celestial events at the pole, there is the amazing aurora borealis filling the night skies with brilliant colors. The aurora is caused by charged particles of the sun slamming into the upper reaches of the skies magnetic field.

The Aurora Borealis

So there you have it, Santa lives in a strange and mysterious place full of surprises and beauty.

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1 comment:

  • jfreed27 posted at 11:39 am on Wed, Dec 25, 2013.

    jfreed27 Posts: 1

    I was surprised that current changes were not well discussed. It's like an article on the Zoo neglected to mention an animal epidemic was killing the animals there, and no one was very concerned.

    The Arctic acts like the Earth's air conditioner, cooling the rest of the globe. Ice reflects the sun's energy. Open ocean absorbs the energy.

    However, the Arctic has lost 40% or so of its ice, due to warming, in the last few decades. See graph

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/snow-ice/sea-ice.html

    And to think we had the means to prevent at least a part of this. We just didn't want to be bothered.

     
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