Update: Since we first published this story, we've learned that the camera that took the above photo may have started at the North Pole in the spring, but, because it's on an ice floe, it's since drifted far south. On July 24, when this photo was taken, this log says that it was 363 miles south of the North Pole. And as The New York Times' Dot Earth blogger notes in a post critical of this and other reports of a lake at the North Pole, "Ponds of meltwater form routinely on Arctic Ocean sea ice in the summer."
Original: In what has now become an annual occurrence, the North Pole has melted, turning the Earth's most northern point into a lake. Call it Lake North Pole. To be clear, the water in the photo is not seawater seeping up from the ocean but melted icewater resting on top of a thinning layer of ice below the surface. "It’s a shallow lake. It’s a cold lake. But it is, actually, a lake," writes William Wolfe-Wylie of Canada.com.
That lake started to form on July 13 during a month of abnormally warm weather — temperatures were 1-3 degrees Celsius higher than average in the Arctic Ocean this month — and has come to stretch a significant distance, though not out of the camera's range. In addition, the water is likely to get worse over the coming week, as an expected Arctic cyclone's strong winds and rain will loosen the ice coverage even further.
The picture above is what the North Pole looks like now, via the North Pole Environmental Observatory. The photo below is what it looked like back in April, and probably how you pictured it before you starting reading.
The melting ice caps follow a trend of continually rising temperatures across the globe, and the Northern hemisphere has been particularly affected. Things looked to be slightly reversed this year after an April snow cover that was the 9th highest on record, but May's snow cover ranked the third lowest (dating to 1967), according to The Washington Post, melting almost half of that snow.
The continued heating of the seas and melting near the ice caps does not bode well for ice cover in the arctic. Sorry, Santa Claus. It may be time to move to one of those ice bars.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.