Here's what that “melting North Pole” really is

Last week, we heard that the Arctic Ocean had gotten so warm that the region around the North Pole itself had melted. But that's not strictly true – as this video shows.

New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin explains:

There was quite a bit of hype bouncing around [about a lake] at the North Pole. This video tries to clarify what's up. Ponds of meltwater form routinely on Arctic Ocean sea ice in the summer. The sea ice is floating on the Arctic Ocean and in constant motion. The webcam that took these images was placed on the ice a few dozen miles from the North Pole in early spring, but has since drifted hundreds of miles.


Below, you can see a map of how far the camera has drifted.

Illustration for article titled Heres what that “melting North Pole” really is

So it's incorrect to say the North Pole is melting. It's also important to remember that the water you're seeing is actually on top of a layer of ice. So it's not like the camera is adrift in the open water.

At Climate Central, Andrew Freeman adds:

Melting sea ice at or near the North Pole is actually not a rare event. Observations from the webcams dating back to 2002, and from satellite imagery and nuclear-powered submarines that have explored the ice cover since the Cold War era dating back several decades, show that sea ice around the North Pole has formed melt ponds, and even areas of open water, several times in the past.


None of this is to say that we shouldn't be worried about the extent of the melt this year. But jumping to the conclusion that the entire Arctic Ocean is ice-free isn't helpful because it distorts the problem and makes it harder for the public to understand how weather at the Pole actually works.

Read more of Revkin's reporting on the North Pole here.


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Stan Slaughter

Water expands when frozen.

logically - if all of the ice making up the North Pole melted - shouldn't the water level go down ?