Persistent, rapid warming in the Arctic is producing unprecedented changes in the region’s ecosystem and wildlife, a phenomenon that has broad ramifications for the global environment and economy, an international team of scientists warn in the Arctic Report Card 2016, released this week.
The report was published by the Arctic Research Program in the NOAA Climate Program Office, and contains contributions from 61 scientists in 12 countries.
Among the report’s findings: Air temperatures in the Arctic are rising at a rate that’s double the increase in global temperatures, and the average temperature for the year ending in September 2016 was by far the highest since 1900. The dramatic warmth is accelerating the melting of Arctic sea ice, which shrinks to its minimum coverage area each September. In 2016, sea ice coverage was 33% lower than the 1981-2010 average, and tied with 2007 for the second lowest value in the satellite record, according to the report.
“We’ve seen a year in 2016 in the Arctic like we’ve never seen before,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program and a co-editor of the report, during a press conference earlier this week. “The report card this year clearly shows a stronger and more pronounced signal of persistent warming than in any previous year in our observational record. And those warming effects in the Arctic have had a cascading effect through the environment,” he said.
The rapid warming is influencing weather patterns and sea levels, and has broad implications for international trade, security and energy development, the report says.
During the CSG/ERC 2016 Annual Meeting in Québec City last August, we hosted a discussion led by academics and government officials, who discussed the accelerating Arctic ice melt and international efforts to address climate change. They also offered strategies for state, provincial and local officials to maximize the economic and social benefits of carbon policies in their jurisdictions. Here are links to the presentations: