The snow-covered Arctic as we know it is no more. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees U.S. research in the Arctic, has released an annual report on the region’s health with the depressing title “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”
As NOAA notes in its report, “Arctic temperatures continue to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase” and show no signs of slowing down. This year had some of the highest permafrost temperatures in Alaska on record, as Grist notes, and the smallest sea ice coverage. If that trend continues—and it’s expected to— widespread thawing could begin in as few as 10 years. That means soon the ice-covered Arctic will be no more, because, as the director of NOAA’s Arctic Program put it in an interview with NPR, “there is no normal” anymore.
This is terrible news for the planet, the Inuit, the polar bears, and, of course, Santa Claus. Good thing some scientists at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability have come up with the theory that snowy moons like Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, might be habitable. The moon sits in perpetual winter, and if the North Pole is no longer an option for Santa, moons like Enceladus might be a better choice—far from greenhouse gases, coal-fired power plants, and humans in general.
“Living in a never-ending landscape of snow and ice all year might not seem particularly inviting, even for Santa!” University of Warwick’s David Brown said in a statement. “But these moons represent some of the best chances for life beyond Earth in the solar system, and are environments that we’re very interested in exploring.”ML