Arctic Report Card: Warm Weather and Melted Ice Are the New Normal

By Eliza Strickland | October 22, 2010 11:26 am

arctic-warming“Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely.” That’s the understated conclusion from this year’s Arctic Report Card, which found that air temperatures will continue rising and ice will continue melting in the Arctic as global warming continues to take its toll on the region. The annual report was prepared by 69 researchers in eight countries, and was issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What goes on in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The researchers note that conditions in the Arctic can affect global weather, and point to the huge snowstorms that hit the American northeast and mid-Atlantic states last winter as an example.

“Normally the cold air is bottled up in the Arctic,” said Jim Overland of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. But last December and February, winds that normally blow west to east across the Arctic were instead bringing the colder air south to the Mid-Atlantic, he said. “As we lose more sea ice it’s a paradox that warming in the atmosphere can create more of these winter storms,” Overland said at a news briefing. [Washington Post]

The Arctic is feeling the effects of climate change faster than the rest of the globe due to a feedback cycle called polar amplification.

Warming air melts the sun-reflecting white snow and ice of the Arctic, revealing darker, heat-absorbing water or land, spurring the effects of warming. This is further amplified by the action of the round-the-clock sunlight of Arctic summers. [Reuters]

Other findings from the report: Sea ice has declined sharply over the past three decades and hit record lows in the last four years, glaciers are losing mass, and permafrost temperatures are increasing. These rapid changes are forcing Arctic animals to adapt or die; the report notes that some species of seabirds and whales seem to be prospering in a warmer world, but many more species are in decline.

Here’s a video NOAA put together to sum up its findings:

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Image: iStockphoto

  • Peter

    The ‘New Normal’

    what happens when the summer melt has zero ice?

    Where does that sunlight go” Into the dark ocean- and then what?

    Ask Rush Limbaugh.

  • scott

    It’s human nature to not change until forced to – on many fronts. Cities don’t trap and treat sewage until it affects their economy and the stench and illnesses gets so bad the public demands it…until the public, as a whole demands and forces changes in industry and habbits we will march on our current path. Same with chemical dumping/pollution….nobody pays attention until a large group of babies are born deformed, or a large group of people get sick….or people finally notice 1/2 their mountains tops are gone and most streams polluted from mining and all of a sudden get angry and demand change.

    Humans are very stubborn that way, only demaning change when something really scary happens that has or might affect them or loved ones.

    Select groups of people scattered about driving a Prius, recycling and eating organic and sending money to save polar bears will not help too much. We need a massive, society based shift that demands change and right now we have at least 50% who could care a less, are ignorant/fearful about science or don’t believe anything on the pollution front.

    Saldy, I dont see it happening until things get really bad or bizarre (and who knows, things may not?). I wish it were different, I would love to see cruise ships using giant sales, airships with solar crossing the Atlantic, cysterns for water and solar panels with every new home built…but this will take massive public demand…and with half the people salivating over Palin and Rush style politics, and material hungry billions in India and China, I dont see it happening.

  • ChH

    So – say we cut our global CO2 emissions to 1/4 what they are now. Does that change what the new normal is, and if so, how long would it take?

  • Zachary

    Climate Change, not anthropogenic. Destroying the earth in myriad other ways, certainly anthropogenic, focus on the issues we can effect, not solar cycles.

  • Jeff

    I live in an area that use to be covered by a glacier. How did man melt that again?

  • Meme Mine

    Boycott any MAINSCREAM media that still spreads the CO2 “unstoppable warming-IPCC” mistake and fear mongering. It’s criminal to frighten children like this any longer. The 24 years of failed warnings, doubts and Disco Science and fear mongering and needless panic and expense have caught up with the criminal media, scientists, environMENTALists and unfortunately, us progressives.
    Climate change was to science and media what abusive priests are to religion.
    WARNING: If you are still believing voters will vote yes for taxes to make the weather colder, YOU are the new denier.
    Birth Control, not Climate Control.

  • Liam

    The real problem with the world is over-population. It is not politically correct, but during the sixties it was the main concern of the world. The earth was never meant to be populated by over six billion people, hence the starvation, the wasted resources and over-fishing of our oceans.

  • Dante The Canadian

    Could it also be that the earth is in a natural warming period that, combined with the human effects on the environment, have affected the climate in the arctic as a whole? the earth is shown to have warming and cooling trends over and over again. Over hundreds and thousands of years the earths climate changes back and forth. This could be another one of those changes. What about the unusual inactivity of the sun lately? Is that because of us too? Could that also be having an effect on temperatures?

    I find that people tend to look at situations as absolutes when in actuality there is more than one explanation for an event. Man as fault for some of what is happening in the world regarding climate, but man is NOT the only culprit.

  • scott

    Contributing, causing, yes or no, I still think we should be on top of the pollution thing and “going green” in all directions we can, and fast. I am just as concerned about chemical pollutions (use and disposal) as I am fossil fuel use – pesticides, preservatives, in manufacturing, industry, etc.

    Interesting to think about…if we were entering a new ice age and massive ice sheets were forming and creeping south with each winter would we be franctially trying to dump out pollutions to trap heat and keep the planet warm to sustain the life style we have evolved in and are comfortable in? If Europe and nothern US were about to be buried in year round snow and ice…would we all be promoting a massive gas build up?

  • Kat

    I believe we need to place a wind farm in the Arctic that can power huge freezer machines that create glaciers and snow… to simulate the Artic climate… in return this could possibly save the Arctic species.. and will create a few jobs as well. May sound silly… but we waste time and money on less important things everyday. Like huge sport stadiums… individual space travel.


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