View from the top of the world

Posted by Ellen

 

There is a webcam at the North Pole. It's a security camera, basically, keeping an eye on all the scientific instruments that monitor weather, snow, and ice conditions at the Pole. The camera is solar powered, sensibly enough, so the picture-taking begins each year in April and continues into October. Today, polar weather is dry and sunny, perfect for snapshots, but I chose to post this image instead, from July 5, because of the hint of a rainbow in the sky.

The puddles are meltwater ponded on top of the sea ice; the Arctic Ocean itself is still completely ice-covered in this photo. Since 2002, when the first webcam recorded this phenomenon throughout the Arctic summer, meltponds have first appeared as early as mid-June and as late as August. Most years, the ponds have spread to cover most of the sea ice by mid-August, before freeze-up begins again in late August. But in 2008, for reasons unknown, only a few small ponds appeared, and they'd barely begun to spread at all when freeze-up started.

So far, melting in 2010 has followed a pattern typical of the average North Pole summer--at least average for recorded North Pole meltpond history, which dates back only to 2002.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the webcam, has assembled the snapshots into videos, which are posted on Youtube. You can see the snapshots and access the videos from NOAA's Arctic Gallery website.