Scientists say they aren't surprised, but climate change in the Northern Arctic is happening so quickly it's forcing NOAA and others to rewrite a data-correcting algorithm.
Climatology sites are very uniform and follow strict guidelines to prevent the data from being contaminated, and algorithms help remove outliers before that information gets to the final data set.
When checking November meteorological data from a site in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, scientists discovered their climate monitoring station had reported no data for the entire month.
Upon closer inspection, they realized an algorithm had removed all the data from that Arctic site for the month of November; it simply thought it was an outlier.
The correctly observed data was no outlier; it was real.
The average temperatures in Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow, are now just that warm compared to two decades ago: 7.8 degrees warmer in October, 6.9 degrees warmer in November and 4.7 degrees warmer in December.
Later arrivals of sea ice on the coastal town in the fall is keeping temperatures warm, in addition to a myriad of other factors changing the local climate.
Chief of NOAA's Monitoring Branch National Centers for Environmental Information Deke Arndt says this is another piece of evidence that the Earth has moved into a new climate regime.
"[The Arctic] is changing faster than anywhere on the planet," Arndt says.
It's not the first time there's been a broken algorithm. Arndt says this is just the latest example; climate change has broken other algorithms at Arctic sites in Canada and Scandinavia.