A city in Alaska is warming so fast as a result of climate change that an algorithm thought the data was an error, and tried to discount it.
Sadly, that’s anything but the case. The town of Utqiaġvik in Alaska – previously called Barrow – has warmed by 4.3°C (7.8°F) in October over the last 17 years. For November it’s an increase of 3.8°C (6.9°F), and December it's 2.6°C (4.7°F).
In a blog post, Deke Arndt, the head of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch, said a sensor at the NOAA Barrow Baseline Atmospheric Observatory recently discounted all its data for 2017 and the last few months of 2016. This is because an algorithm used thought the readings were erroneous, so they were discounted.
Arndt called it an “ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic,” saying that the average temperature at a weather station disqualified itself from the overall dataset because the change was so rapid.
Point Barrow, located near Utqiaġvik, is the most northern point in the US, located on the Arctic coast. And the Arctic temperature is changing more rapidly as a result of climate change than anywhere else.
An article from NOAA back in 2013 describes how the declining sea ice coverage means there is much more open water to the west and northwest of Utqiaġvik. In 2012, this resulted in coastal flooding in low-lying parts of Utqiaġvik.
“The twenty-first-century autumn climate of Barrow, and throughout the circumpolar Arctic, will continue to be dramatically different than that experienced within living or cultural memory,” that article stated. “There is nothing abstract or hypothetical about climate change at Barrow.”
In the latest article, Arndt says that his colleagues have been planning for the moment their sensors could not keep pace with the warming temperatures. “As a relatively isolated station, experiencing profound and unique change, Utqiaġvik was destined to get flagged,” he said. “And it happened this month.”
The team will now spend the coming months restoring the sensor at Utqiaġvik, and then adding its data back into the US and global analyses. This incident should serve as a pretty stark reminder, though, that climate change is real, and its effects are being felt right now.