The North Pole Lake That Wasn’t

by Sterling Beard

The “North Pole Lake” had a bit of Internet infamy a few weeks ago. Some pictures and video started circulating in late July which purported to show the North Pole turning into a lake because of global warming. The AP breathlessly reported on it, and it even made The Colbert Report.

The problem was, that’s not what the pictures showed. Turns out the images (which were shot with webcams equipped with wide-angle lenses and thus appear to show great stretches of ice when they actually don’t) showed the formation of a melt pond, a small body of water that forms on top of sea ice in the summer — rather than having anything to do with abnormal climate shifts. Moreover, some of the images of the melt pond were taken several hundred miles south of the pole because the ice floes on which the cameras were positioned had drifted. The melt pond in question, which was estimated to be about two feet deep, has now refrozen. Several outlets had to amend their original stories, including the AP, which struck the photo from its archives.

The North Pole Environmental Observatory, the organization that set up the webcams, received so many requests for information about the images from its cameras that it put up a page on its website explaining them. Melt ponds, the NPEO said, have “always been a key feature of the summer season on sea ice,” and “form every year.” Indeed, the NPEO says that the melt pond in the picture “looks pretty typical for this time of year and this location.” The NPEO also said that the melt pond was “not specifically” due to global warming — they’re more concerned about warm air temperatures in the winter and warmer ocean water that would melt the ice from below (because Arctic sea ice is indeed getting thinner).

Via Weasel Zippers.