You hear a lot about global warming and climate change. One fact makes a lot of experts especially nervous. It is getting warmer faster in one of the coldest places on the planet.
Arctic air temperatures are rising at more than twice the rate of global air temperatures, according to the Arctic Report Card 2014, which includes other key indicators about the pace of change in the northernmost reaches of the planet.
More than 60 scientists and researchers from 13 countries contributed to the report issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in late 2014.
Key findings in the most recent and comprehensive studies on the region include:
Snow cover: During the spring of 2014, snow cover across the Arctic was below the long-term mean of 1981–2010, with Eurasia’s snow cover in April the lowest since 1967. With low seasonal snow accumulation, and warmer spring temperatures, snow melted three to four weeks earlier in many areas.
Sea ice: The oldest, thickest ice (greater than 4 meters) has diminished since 1988. At that time, old ice made up 26 percent of the ice pack, compared to 10 percent in 2014. The decrease in sea-ice extent is cited as a cause for diminished polar bear populations in some areas.
Arctic Ocean temperature: Sea-surface temperatures measured during the summer ice-melt period were higher in 2014 than in the past. Significant warming was recorded in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska; in the Laptev Sea, north of Russia, the temperature was as much as 3.9 C higher than the 1982–2010 average.
Greenland ice sheet: Melting occurred across almost 40 percent of the Greenland ice sheet in summer 2014. Extent of melting was generally above the long-term average from 1981 to 2010. In August 2014, the reflectivity (albedo) of the ice sheet was the lowest observed in more than a decade. When less of the sun’s energy is reflected by ice, melting increases. The total mass of the ice sheet remained essentially unchanged between 2013 and 2014.
The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council organized the independent peer review of the 2014 report card — the litmus test for responsible, grounded science.
The eight member nations of the Arctic Council will convene in the Arctic city of Iqaluit, Canada, April 24–25. The council serves as a discussion forum for Arctic-bordering nations and indigenous Arctic peoples, with a focus on sustainable development, environmental protection, shipping and issues unique to the region.