Arctic report card rates climate warming

Atmosphere, sea ice and Greenland receive “red” marks


The 2010 Arctic report card says the Arctic is continuing to heat up and a return to previous conditions is unlikely. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The 2010 Arctic report card says the Arctic is continuing to heat up and a return to previous conditions is unlikely. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The Arctic region— the “planet’s refrigerator”— continues to heat up, according to a team of 69 international scientists, who say a return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely.

Their findings are released in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Oct. 22 Arctic report card, a yearly assessment of Arctic conditions.

NOAA introduced the Arctic report card four years ago to evaluate changing conditions in the region by “marking” the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land and changes in Greenland with color-coded “grades.”

A “red” mark indicates consistent evidence of warming and a “yellow” mark shows that warming impacts are occurring in climate indicators and species.

This year, the Arctic’s atmosphere and sea ice and for Greenland all received “red” marks.

This what the 2010 report card says:

about the atmosphere—

• the first half of 2010 showed more than a four-degree upward trend in northern Canada’s air temperatures;
• the Arctic Ocean stored lots of heat at the end of summer due to continued near-record sea ice loss; and,
• higher air temperatures in the lower Arctic atmosphere in fall are contributing to changes in air currents in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes.

about Greenland—

• Greenland is experiencing record-setting high temperatures, ice melt and glacier area loss, with Nuuk experiencing the warmest summer, spring, and winter 2009/2010 since record keeping began in 1873, while Narsarssuaq saw the warmest month of May, and the warmest winter, spring and the warmest year (July 2009-August 2010) since record keeping began in 1951.

about sea ice and snow—

• summer sea ice continues to decline, and the 2009-2010 summer sea ice cover extent was the third lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and sea ice thickness continues to thin;
• an increase in the amount of melt water from the sea ice cover and more carbon dioxide uptake in the ocean caused the surface waters of the Canada basin to become corrosive;
• low winter snow accumulation and warm spring temperatures created a new record low spring snow cover duration over the Arctic in 2010, since satellite observations began in 1966;
• glaciers and ice caps in Arctic Canada continue to lose mass at a rate that has been increasing since 1987, reflecting a trend towards warmer summer air temperatures and longer melt seasons.

“Beyond affecting the humans and wildlife that call the area home, the Arctic’s warmer temperatures and decreases in permafrost, snow cover, glaciers and sea ice also have wide-ranging consequences for the physical and biological systems in other parts of the world.

The Arctic is an important driver of climate and weather around the world and serves as a critical feeding and breeding ground that supports globally significant populations of birds, mammals and fish,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

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