Meltwater lake forms at North Pole

Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA's Arctic division maintains a couple of webcams at the North Pole, and one of them is showing a pretty impressive meltwater lake forming around it. Previous years show small ponds forming and refreezing throughout the summer, but this year nearly all the snow in view of the camera has melted into a lake-sized slush.

Check out this time lapse video of the lake forming. Much more photos and videos from this year and previous years at NOAA's website.

Notable Replies

  1. That's a lovely time lapse. Also, we're fucked.

  2. Old says:

    Stupid question: I thought the ice over the North Pole moved and shifted considerably throughout the year. How do they keep a weather station (or whatever that is) in one place?

  3. Is this bad? Yes and no.

    Let's look at the science of this. First, this isn't actually the pole, it's close to the pole, but the ice flows from year to year as linked from Simon2 earlier in the discussion. There are actually times that the pole ends up with open water. Lewis Pugh actually went swimming at the North Pole a few years ago (go Google it - discourse will only let me put two links per post).

    So, we can acknowledge that there are times when the North Pole is open water. But is there a massive melt pond such as this every year? No. 2002 and 2009 never saw a melt pond appear. The ponds from 2008 and 2011 were barely a blip. In the last 10 years that we've had cameras up there this is the largest and deepest melt pond recorded. While the melting started late this year, it's way ahead of schedule now (see http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/ice-npole.shtml). From a planetary perspective this water will re-freeze, but new ice tends to be much more fragile, thinner, and less dense than old ice. This results in ice that melts easier in the future, just furthering the problems.

    There are other parts to this story. Take a look at the other camera, which shows a much smaller melt pond (http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/NPEO2013/9.jpg). Then there's also the issue of current sea ice cover. While the arctic summer started out pretty cool, it's warmed up rapidly over the past few weeks, which caused the widespread deep melt pond shown in the picture. We're currently about 2 standard deviations off from the average for the last 30 years (go google "Arctic Sea Ice News" -- once again, I blame discourse for having a broken spam filter system). For those of you who don't do statistics, that means only about 3 in 100 years would be expected to be this far away from the average by chance. Combined with an arctic cyclone expected later this week, we're going to be quickly knocked to the 99th percentile. I'm not a climate scientist, so I won't comment on the odds of consecutive years being this far off (they're not independent events).

    In other words - this presence of a melt pond by itself isn't strange. However, combined with everything else, we should be concerned.

  4. It seems we have a North Pool.

    And yes, I've been waiting to make that pun since I first found out about global warming.

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