(WPB) — On Saturday, multiple lightning strikes were detected within 300 miles of the North Pole, according to the National Weather Service. The bolts, which were the product of towering storm clouds that, if seen in lower latitudes, would amount to ordinary thunderstorms, were noticed by sharp-eyed forecasters at the NWS office in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The thunderstorms at the top of the world struck in the midst of an extreme summer that has featured record-low sea ice levels and much-above-average temperatures across much of the Arctic Ocean, including at the pole itself. In Greenland in late July and early August, an extreme weather event led to record levels of ice melt into the sea, tangibly raising global sea levels. A wildfire has been burning in western Greenland for more than a month, illustrating the unusually dry and warm conditions there.
“This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory,” the NWS stated.
Reached by phone Monday morning, NWS Fairbanks meteorologist Ryan Metzger hesitated to say that lightning so close to the pole has never been seen before, in part because forecasters aren’t always looking there. “I wouldn’t say it’s never happened before, but it’s certainly unusual, and it piqued our attention,” Metzger said.