Report points to evidence of “Arctic environmental system change”

Record-breaking year sets troubling pattern, says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


The Arctic region continued to break records in 2012, including the loss of summer sea ice, reduced spring snow cover, and increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were “unremarkable,” when compared to the past 10 years, according to a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Dec. 5.

NOAA’s Arctic “report card” has, since 2006, summarized changing conditions in the Arctic.

Major findings of this year’s report include:

• snow cover, with new record low snow extent for the northern hemisphere was set in June 2012, and a new record low was reached in May over Eurasia.;

• sea ice, with the minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September 2012 setting a new all-time record low, as measured by satellite since 1979.;

• Greenland ice sheet melt, with a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event on the Greenland ice sheet in July, covering about 97 per cent of the ice sheet on a single day;

• vegetation, with the tundra getting greener and more above-ground growth. During the period of 2003-2010, the length of the growing season increased through much of the Arctic;

• wildlife and food chain, with recent measurements of massive phytoplankton blooms below the summer sea ice suggest that earlier estimates of biological production at the bottom of the marine food chain may have been ten times lower than was occurring.;

• ocean, as sea surface temperatures in summer continue to be warmer than the long-term average at the end of the ice extent; and,

• weather, producing three extreme weather events, including an unusual cold spell in late January to early February 2012 across Eurasia, and two record storms with low central pressures and strong winds near western Alaska in November 2011 and north of Alaska in August 2012.

“Combined, these changes are strong evidence of the growing momentum of Arctic environmental system change,” said NOAA, adding that “the record-breaking year also indicates that it is unlikely that conditions can quickly return to their former state.”

You can visit the report here or watch this video presentation:

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