The Arctic

The polar region is the area of the world that has seen the most profound effects of climate change in recent decades. Average year-round temperatures in the Arctic are 3C higher than they were in the pre-industrial era, snowfall is heavier, winds are stronger and the ice sheet has been shrinking for 30 years. link  
(August 2016: Historical data shows Arctic melt of last two decades is 'unprecedented'.  link)



  • The Arctic Ocean
  • What does an ice-free Arctic mean?
  •  . . . and Polar Bears  
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Page on Glaciers

The Arctic

December 2017: Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds. 
Scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times.
Arctic winter sea ice maximum levels in 2017 were the smallest they’ve ever been for the season when ice normally grows. It was the third straight year of record low winter sea ice recovery. Records go back to 1979. About 79% of the Arctic sea ice is thin and only a year old. In 1985, 45% of the sea ice in the Arctic was thick, older ice, said NOAA Arctic scientist Emily Osborne. link
July 2016: Arctic sea ice record low for June. The summer sea ice cover over the Arctic raced towards oblivion in June, crashing through previous records to reach a new all-time low. The Arctic sea ice extent was a staggering 260,000 sq km (100,000 sq miles) below the previous record for June, set in 2010. And it was 1.36m sq km (525,000 sq miles) below the 1981-2010 long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That means a vast expanse of ice, an area about twice the size of Texas, has vanished over the past 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated. link

Methane release from Arctic.

July  2013: Arctic methane “time bomb” could cost $60 trillion. Researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of methane gas could cost $60 trillion, roughly the size of the global economy in 2012. The impacts are most likely to be felt in developing countries. Scientists have had concerns about the impact of rising temperatures on permafrost for many years. Large amounts of methane are concentrated in the frozen Arctic tundra but are also found as semi-solid gas hydrates under the sea. Results are based on the impact of 50 gigatonnes of methane release over a decade. link

May 2012: Arctic melt releasing ancient methane. Scientists have identified thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane that has been stored for many millennia is bubbling into the atmosphere.  link

August 2010: Arctic ice melt to cost up to $24 trillion by 2050. Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heatwaves according to economist Eban Goodstein. The report, reviewed by scientists and economists provides the first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world’s great weather makers. link  

November 2013: Leading scientist says Arctic oil spill is certain if drilling goes ahead. link

An NSIDC (US National Snow and Ice Data Center) Arctic specialist said “If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children's’ lifetimes.” link

February 2013: Arctic sea ice now one-fifth of its 1980 level.  The key conclusion of the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) is that Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing much faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner. Arctic sea ice volume has declined by 36% in the autumn and 9% in the winter between 2003 and 2012. link

May 2013: Arctic seas rapidly becoming more acidic. Scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitored widespread changes in ocean chemistry in the region, saying that even if CO2 emissions stopped now, it would take tens of thousands of years for Arctic Ocean chemistry to revert to pre-industrial levels. It is well known that CO2 warms the planet, but less well-known that it also makes the alkaline seas more acidic when it is absorbed from the air. link

August 2012: Arctic sea ice reaches record low. (The sea ice extent at 26 August (white) is markedly different from the 1979-2000 average (orange line) The Arctic has lost more sea ice this year than at any time since satellite records began in 1979 according to Nasa, This summer ice volume is now only 30% of what it was in the 1980’s. Measurements from submarines have shown that it has lost at least 40% of its thickness since the 1980s, and if you consider the shrinkage as well it means that the summer ice volume is now only 30% of what it was in the 1980s. link  
July 2012: Loss of Arctic sea ice 70% man-made. link

May 2011: Arctic - an irreversible climate "tipping point" could occur within the next 20 yearslink    

December 2013: Arctic cyclones more common than previously thought. From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes, and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That's about 40% more than previously thought, according to a new analysis of these Arctic storms. A 40% difference in the number of cyclones could be important to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees. link

 What does an ice-free Arctic mean?

August 2016: What does an ice-free Arctic mean?  Each year chance events can give a boost to ice cover or take some away. The overall trend is a very strong downward one, however. Most people expect this year will see a record low in the Arctic’s summer sea-ice cover. Next year or the year after that, I think it will be free of ice in summer and by that I mean the central Arctic will be ice-free. You will be able to cross over the north pole by ship. There will still be about a million square kilometres of ice in the Arctic in summer but it will be packed into various nooks and crannies along the Northwest Passage and along bits of the Canadian coastline. Ice-free means the central basin of the Arctic will be ice-free and I think that that is going to happen in summer 2017 or 2018. link

July 2013: Ice-free Arctic pinpointed 40 years ahead. The melting of the Arctic icecap has become so fast and so certain that researchers can now confidently predict when the ocean will become ice-free, to within four years.  People have been warning about an ice-free Arctic ocean for years.  Jiping Liu, an atmospheric scientist at the State University of New York in Albany in the US and colleagues predict that the Arctic Ocean will be effectively free of ice for the first time in the month of September between 2054 and 2058. From 1979 to 2001, the ice cap dwindled by more than 6% per decade, and in 2001 began melting twice as fast, The ice melt broke all previous records in 2007, and in 2012 did it again, reaching an all-time low. link

 Polar bears

February 2018: Polar bears could become extinct faster than was feared. New research suggests polar bears could be sliding towards extinction faster than previously feared, with the animals facing an increasing struggle to find enough food to survive as climate change steadily transforms their environment. Receding sea ice is making hunting increasingly difficult for the animals. With previous studies showing recent drops in polar bear numbers, survival rates and body condition, scientists said the new research suggests the species is facing an even worse predicament than was feared. link

June 2017: How climate change could be making polar bears healthier and more dangerouslink    

Polar bears are not evenly distributed throughout the Arctic, nor do they comprise a single nomadic cosmopolitan population, but rather occur in 19 relatively discrete subpopulations. There is however an uncertainty about the discreteness of the less studied subpopulations, particularly in the Russian Arctic and neighbouring areas, due to very restricted data on live capture and tagging. The PBSG first provided a global population range estimate for polar bears in 1993. The range specified at that time, 21,470-28,370 polar bears.   Source

May 2010: Polar bears face 'tipping point' due to climate change. link    

August 2009: Stress is shrinking polar bear size. In a new study, scientists compared bear skulls from the early 20th century with those from the latter half of the century describing changes in size and shape that could be linked an increase in pollution and the reduction in sea ice. Physical "stress" caused by pollutants in the bears' bodies, and the increased effort needed to find food, could limit the animals' growth, the team said.  link 

December 2012: Polar bear threat – hunting or global warming? Some activists say the market for rugs and ornaments made from the bears is driving them to extinction. But others argue that the most pressing problem for the species is climate change and the disappearance of polar ice. Every year around 600 bears are legally killed by hunters in Canada. In the five years up to 2012 there has been a 375% increase in the number of polar bear skins offered at auction, some selling for as much as $12,000. The Humane Society International/UK says that polar bears have been brought to a tipping point by climate change but that increased hunting in recent years is pushing the species "beyond the brink". link

June 2011: The truth about polar bears and climate change.  link  

Final note - U.S. spy satellites reveal the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide - link

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