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Long Term Arctic Temperature Trends

November 23, 2016

By Paul Homewood


As I pointed out in my post, Arctic Sea Ice Update, the other day, we currently have low sea ice extent and unusually high temperature anomalies in the Arctic.

Although much of this is just weather, there is an underlying pattern of warming related to pulses of unusually warm water, which have been entering the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic for the last decade or more.

But just how unusual are conditions there? Are they as unprecedented as Neven suggested in the comments?



The area we are talking about spans from East Greenland across to Siberia. The CLIMAS project analysed a lot of data in 2000, and provided the above map of sites which they used, which all had good quality, long term data.

So what do the temperature trends tell us about the climate in that part of the world.



Akureyri in Iceland is regarded as being the Icelandic site most representative of climate in the Greenland Sea, as it is on the north coast.

I prepared this graph of annual mean temperatures a few months ago. It is based on temperature data provided by the Iceland Met Office, which has been carefully homogenised by Trausti Jonsson to take account of station moves, equipment changes, etc.




The warmest year recently was 2014, with a mean of 5.3C. But this was not as warm as 1933, which reached 5.6C. 


Let’s look at some of the other sites around the Arctic, using GISS unadjusted data. 











There is clearly very little “unprecedented” about any of this. Jan Mayen had the warmest year on record in 2014, and a couple of the Russian stations had warm years in 2012.

But overall temperatures in the last decade or two have been within the bounds of those set during the 1920s to 40s. 

We also need to recognise that temperatures at Russian stations were almost certainly understated during the Soviet era.  


It is fair to say that the current warm period has been more sustained, in comparison with the earlier one which also had several much colder years. But is this simply a case of weather?

What is clear though is that temperatures have plateaued, and there is no evidence that they will trend higher. Indeed, history suggests that the next move will be downwards.



As for the longer perspective, we only have to look at Greenland ice core data to see that there is nothing unprecedented about today’s climate there.               



Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 12.34.16

  1. Ian Magness permalink
    November 23, 2016 6:35 pm

    Slightly off-topic here, but the likes of the FT and other MSM are screaming that Arctic temperatures are presently a full 20C/35F (or similar) over average. Surely, this is absurd? You will no doubt have been following this. Where are they getting these figures from?

  2. Ian George permalink
    November 23, 2016 8:02 pm

    This is the graph for present Arctic average temps and it does show a high anomaly.
    Yet i don’t understand why Greenland shows an increasing accumulated surface mass balance since September despite the high temps. Maybe I’m reading the graph for the Acc SMB wrongly.

    • Mr GrimNasty permalink
      November 23, 2016 10:30 pm

      Big ‘warm’ low pressure systems = dumping a mountain of snow, still cold enough for snow!

      The arctic has cooled off a lot in the last 2 days or so, now as cold as anytime so far this season, currently averaging about -15C (was -5, v -25 av.).

  3. November 23, 2016 8:03 pm

    But it’s been unusually cold in Siberia for this time of year.

    Focussing only on the Arctic is a bad idea.

  4. November 23, 2016 8:15 pm

    A recent study of 118 stations around the Arctic Circle concluded:

    The Arctic has warmed at the same rate as Europe over the past two centuries. . . The warming has not occurred at a steady rate. . .During the 1900s, all four (Arctic) regions experienced increasing temperatures until about 1940. Temperatures then decreased by about 1 °C over the next 50 years until rising in the 1990s.

    The warming has been larger in January than in July. Siberia, Alaska and Western Canada appear to have warmed slightly more than Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Northern Europe. The warming has not occurred at a steady rate. Much of the warming trends found during 1820 to 2014 occurred in the late 1990s, and the data show temperatures levelled off after 2000. The July temperature trend is even slightly negative for the period 1820–1990.

  5. November 23, 2016 8:50 pm

    Weren’t the Soviet winter temperatures reported LOWER than actual, so that they got extra power allocations? Actually, anything that had to do with low temps?

    I think that is what you are saying.

    • November 24, 2016 10:24 am


      • tom0mason permalink
        November 24, 2016 10:35 am

        You may be interested to see Euan Mearns blog as it has an eye-opening piece by Roger Andrews The European Blackout Risk

        …February 8, 2012 combined electricity demand in the UK, France and Germany peaked at a high of 231GW during a winter cold snap…
        …but the UK, France and Germany could have a combined total of as little as 210GW of capacity on-line this winter, and if another 231GW demand peak coincides with 210GW …(… paying lots of industries and businesses to shut down) or blackouts.

  6. November 23, 2016 9:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  7. Gerry, England permalink
    November 23, 2016 11:47 pm

    I think that very little is ‘unprecedented’. Usually the words they fail to use are ‘not in my lifetime’. Some things happen on 200 year cycles so you are only likely to see it once. And then the other old chestnut ‘since records began’ often hides a very short record such as the arctic satellite records from 1979.

  8. tom0mason permalink
    November 24, 2016 4:10 am

    However as shown by so much research over the last 50 years, especially by Russian researchers, Arctic ice is very dependent on sea temperature cycles.
    Yep, ice melts faster in warm water. Who knew, eh?

  9. Green Sand permalink
    November 24, 2016 9:17 am

    Whilst down south:-

    ‘Scott and Shackleton logbooks prove Antarctic sea ice is not shrinking 100 years after expeditions’

  10. DAVID ROWE permalink
    November 24, 2016 9:22 am

    An article published in November 1922 in the Royal Meteorol Society revealed concern that sea ice had disappeared in the eastern Arctic. Capt. Martin Ingebrigtsen with 54 years experience says he noted warmer conditions since 1918, and it has steadily got warmer, and is not recognizable as the same region of 1868 to 1917. Around Spitzbergen the ocean did not freeze even in winter, white fish disappeared, but great shoals of herring were found along with smelt. Arctic warming is nothing new, but is cyclical.

  11. tom0mason permalink
    November 24, 2016 9:31 am

    I’m indebted to and this comment from
    John (magnum) on that post —

    John (magnum)

    The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consulate at Bergen Norway

    Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone.
    Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes.
    Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm.

    Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.
    Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.
    Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.

    * * *
    * * * * * *
    I must apologize.
    I neglected to mention that this report was from November 2, 1922, as reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post – 93 years ago.
    This must have been caused by the Model T Ford’s emissions or possibly from horse and cattle flatulence?


  12. Bill Illis permalink
    November 26, 2016 12:25 pm

    Just noting that the Climate Explorer is now providing the raw and adjusted monthly data for all GHCN-M stations – in the Monthly Station sub-heading.

    “GHCN-M (all)” is the unadjusted monthly station data from the NCEI/NCDC and GHCN-M (adjusted) is the adjusted NCDC data. (I have always preferred monthly data to annual).

    If you pick “mean temperature” and then enter lat long 60N to 90N 0E to 360E, “get stations” all of the stations on your map above will show up (use your browser “find” function for any station or country you are looking for). There are 294 stations above 60N, “get data” link on each one will get you to the monthly data in each individual station.

    A few go back to 1750 (although most of the data is missing). One of the longest records is Bergen Norway 1816 to 2016.

    I think there is clearly a cycle in these northern stations with a peak around 1940, a dip down to the early 1970s, then an up-cycle to 2005, down again after. Another peak around 1860 and then down to the early 1900s.

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