WASHINGTON (AP) -
Warming at the top of the world has gone into overdrive, happening twice as
fast as the rest of the globe, and extending unnatural heating into fall and
winter, according to a new federal report.
In its annual
Arctic Report Card, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on
Tuesday tallied record after record of high temperatures, low sea ice,
shrinking ice sheets and glaciers. Study lead author Jeremy Mathis, NOAA’s
Arctic research chief, said it shows long-term Arctic warming trends
deepening and becoming more obvious, with a disturbing creep into seasons
beyond summer, when the Arctic usually rebuilds snow and ice.
long said man-made climate change would hit the Arctic fastest. Mathis and
others said the data is showing that is what’s now happening.
would have to say that this last year has been the most extreme year for the
Arctic that I have ever seen,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National
Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who wasn’t part of the
106-page report. “It’s crazy.”
peer-reviewed report said air temperatures over the Arctic from October 2015
to September 2016 were “by far the highest in the observational record
beginning in 1900.” The average Arctic air temperature at that time was 3.6
degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1981-2010 average. It’s 6.3
degrees (3.5 degrees Celsius) warmer than 1900.
Other extremes the
were 9 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) higher than the 30-year average off the
coasts of Greenland.
-Arctic sea ice
didn’t set a record for the annual minimum, but in October and November when
sea ice normally starts growing back, it didn’t. Sea ice from mid-October
through November was the lowest on record. Dartmouth University professor
Donald Perovich, author of the chapter on sea ice, said sea ice conditions
have sunk from a B-plus grade 11 years ago to a D-minus grade “and that’s
because I’m an easy grader.”
-Snow cover in
North America reached a record low for spring, falling below 1.5 million
square miles in May for the first time since satellite observations began in
-Though not a
record, Greenland’s ice sheet continued to shrink, starting early, on April
10. It was the second earliest start of the Greenland melt season on record.
What’s happening is
due to both man-made warming and a large El Nino that just ended, Mathis
“Not only is it
extreme in any number of measures - air temperature, loss of sea ice and on
and on - but there are so many things we haven’t seen, particularly this
extremely warm fall,” said study co-author Brendan Kelly, executive director
of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change at the University of Alaska,
In 1979, Kelly
cruised the Bering Straits region with a native hunter who told him dozens
of Yupik words for sea ice. One was tagneghneq, for a charcoal grey thick
multi-year ice. That ice is pretty much gone, Kelly said.
This is more than
an Arctic problem, because the cold air escaping changes weather conditions,
such as weakening the jet stream, Mathis said.
“What happens in
the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” Mathis said. “The Lower 48 may have
to deal with more extreme weather events in the future.”