The extremely warm Arctic days occurred at about the same time as an atmospheric pattern known as sudden stratospheric warming dominated the Northern Hemisphere. During an S.S.W., the air temperature rapidly rises by at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit at altitudes above where transcontinental aircraft fly, at roughly 30,000 to 150,000 feet.
The extreme Arctic warming this winter is a foreshadowing of things to come. On our current greenhouse emissions trajectories, the Arctic Ocean is expected to be ice-free in late summer by about midcentury or possibly as early as 2030, depending on natural variability.
Both the S.S.W. and the Arctic warming were forecast with outstanding accuracy in timing and magnitude about two weeks in advance, which allowed parts of Europe hit by the unusually frigid weather plenty of time to prepare.
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But we do know from paleoclimate reconstructions that Arctic warming rates in the industrial era are happening faster than at any time in the past 12,000 years and that the Arctic’s sea ice decline is now greater than at any time in at least the past 1,450 years.
As temperatures turned unusually warm, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean reached new lows, offering a warning for the future. from NYT > Home Page https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/opinion/temperature-climate-students.html?partner=rss&emc=rss via NYT > Home Page
According to Nasa, Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.2% per decade, leaving more open water and higher temperatures. Some scientists speak of a hypothesis known as “warm Arctic, cold continents” as the polar vortex becomes less stable - sucking in more warm air and expelling more cold fronts, such as those currently being experienced in the UK and northern Europe.
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As the Arctic continues receiving energy from the sun during this time, the land, which is mostly free of snow by now, can warm up on clear days when the wind is not coming from the cold ocean. Over the Arctic Ocean the snow cover on the sea ice disappears and ponds of melt water start to form on the sea ice, further reducing the amount of sunlight the ice reflects and helping more ice melt.