It's been a bizarre winter, and Wednesday might just bring the weirdest moment yet: It could be as warm as 40 degrees at the North Pole. That, as Discovery explains, is a good 50 degrees warmer than usual, and means that a place now engulfed in darkness 24 hours a day could be warmer than Southern California. "That's absolutely terrifying and incredibly rare," writes meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate. Centered over Iceland, the storm that's responsible—the same system that brought December tornadoes to Texas—could end up being one of the top five storms ever recorded in that North Atlantic region, writes Andrew Freedman at Mashable. It will be a "meteorological marvel," he writes. "In a region famous for ship-sinking waves and relentless blizzards, this storm may stand out for its sheer intensity." Expect 230mph winds "roaring across the North Atlantic at aircraft cruising altitudes," and lots more rain for an already soaked UK.
And though this is a strong El Nino year, that's probably not the cause here, writes Holthaus, noting that El Nino generally has little influence on Europe. "This, more than any other extreme weather event in a remarkable year for the climate, feels like something new." Climate blogger Robert Scribbler gets into the specifics of the "daisy chain" that's at play involving two other low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic, and he adds that it "reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate." Holthaus, too, is worried about the same, writing that storms like this one will go a long way toward making dire predictions of an ice-free Arctic within decades come true. But the Washington Post notes that some climate scientists are skeptical that global warming is playing a role in storms like these.