Record low Arctic sea ice in November has meteorologists concerned about the functionality and safety of reindeer runways in the North Pole sector.
Satellite monitoring and National Snow and Ice Data Center reports have shown that the North Pole is well frozen over despite record low sea ice in November 2016. Due to unstable ice conditions in the Pole area, Santa's elves have had limited time to prepare the runways, and it is unknown whether they will be able to withstand the heavy traffic of the Christmas period.
Matters are complicated by the fact that, as everyone knows, only children are able to communicate with Santa Claus, so it is difficult to establish the actual situation on the ground (ice).
Recon flights out of Canadian Forces Station Alert, the world's most northern airport, have been hampered by low light, weather conditions, and other navigational issues. Elf technicians are way behind on their usual installations. So far, only a few runways are well delineated, and beacons, landing lights and radar are still being maneuvered by snowmobile elves over the ice to their operational positions.
In a separate issue, herds of reindeer making their way up the ice road to the far north have had a hard time getting through, with the route blocked by patches of open ocean and still unstable ice floes at several points along the way. Santa's workshop was requisitioned to provide barges for the affected areas and reindeer traffic is still moving, although more slowly than usual.
Although the popular imaginary version of Christmas Eve events only refers specifically to 12 or possibly 13 reindeer, it is obvious that the logistics of moving so many toys from Workshop 1 North Pole requires huge herds of reindeer. The technical details are enormous and Santa's teams work year-round to ensure the migration goes trouble-free. One of the little known facts is that the reindeer only acquire their flying abilities during the magic of Christmas and otherwise have to migrate on foot.
Santa, of course, does pilot all the sleds himself simultaneously and has final authority on any flight decisions pertaining to the safety or air-worthiness of any given sleigh. Air traffic control (ATC) in the various jurisdictions is responsible for clearing all flight plans and does provide navigational advice, but suffice it to say that ATC is not officially aware of which aircraft are Santa sleighs.
Despite these numerous problems, it does appear that Christmas will go through per schedule in 2016. Elves and assistants are working around the clock and have never failed to get the job done yet. There may be some disappointed kids but overall Christmas is expected to go well, with more deliveries and more happy children than ever before.