With just a week to go until Christmas, the North Pole should be the most merry place in the world. Santa should be filling his sleigh; the reindeer should be prancing. Instead, the 2015 Arctic Report Card, released yesterday by the NOAA, has illustrated the devastating affects of climate change in the region.
The latest Report Card, for October 2014 to September 2015, shows that temperatures in the Arctic are continuing to warm faster than the global average – an ‘Arctic amplification’ of global climate change.
Land surface temperatures in the Arctic were the highest since records began in 1900, and 1.3°C above the 1981-2010 average. Air temperatures across large areas of the Arctic were more than 3°C warmer than average in all four seasons.
The scarily high temperature anomalies took their toll on sea-ice in the region. Minimum sea-ice extent in the arctic – the area of sea-ice which survived through the summer – was 29% lower than the 1981-2010 average, and the fourth lowest on record.
On the Greenland Ice Sheet, a mass of ice approximately the size of Queensland, melting in 2015 occurred over more than 50% its the surface. The 2015 melt season was 30-40 days longer in the west, northwest and northeast of the Ice Sheet, and almost half of the widest and fastest flowing seaward-bound glaciers retreated throughout the year.
It’s not just Santa who’s affected by climate change either. Sea-ice loss is the greatest threat to the ice-dwelling marine mammals of the Arctic, including polar bears, walrus and seals. Changes to the temperature are also affecting marine ecosystems and fish stocks in the region.
With temperatures continuing to rise worldwide, and the Arctic being particularly hard hit, it is more important than ever that we take ambitious action to tackle climate change. No one wants coal in their stocking this Christmas – let’s keep it in the ground and get cracking with real mitigation action instead!
Charts: NOAA via climate.gov;
Polar bear: Flickr user Christopher Michel licensed under CC BY 2.0