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Arctic Report Card: Region Continues to Warm at Unprecedented Rate

ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2010) — The Arctic region, also called the “planet’s refrigerator,” continues to heat up, affecting local populations and ecosystems as well as weather patterns in the most populated parts of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a team of 69 international scientists.

The findings were released Oct. 21, 2010 in the Arctic Report Card, a yearly assessment of Arctic conditions.

Among the 2010 highlights:

Greenland is experiencing record-setting high temperatures, ice melt and glacier area loss;

Summer sea ice continues to decline — 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. The 2010 minimum is the third lowest recorded since 1979, surpassed only by 2008 and the record low of 2007; and

Arctic snow cover duration was at a record minimum since record-keeping began in 1966.

There is also evidence that the effect of higher air temperatures in the Arctic atmosphere in fall is contributing to changes in the atmospheric circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes. Winter 2009-2010 showed a link between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic, related to a phase of the Arctic Oscillation.

“To quote one of my NOAA colleagues, ‘whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world happens first, and to the greatest extent, in the Arctic,’” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “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.”

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the annual Arctic Report Card, which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century to monitor the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. Using a color-coded system of “red” to indicate consistent evidence of warming and “yellow” to show that warming impacts are occurring in many climate indicators and species, the Report Card is updated annually in October and tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land and changes in Greenland.

The Report Card can be found online at http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/

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