The Arctic is warming three times faster than the planet since 1971

O Arctic got hot three times faster than the planet between 1971 and 2019, an increase in the thermometer faster than previously believed, alerts an Arctic Assessment and Monitoring Program (AMAP) report published this Thursday.

Sea ice or the ice pack, an emblematic element of the region, appears as an announced victim and every fraction of a degree counts: the possibilities that it will disappear completely in summer -before it recovers in winter- are ten times higher if the Earth’s temperature rises by 2 °C, to make 1.5 ° C, the target established by the Paris Agreement, according to this report released on the occasion of a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland.

“The Arctic is really a hotspot for global warming,” sums up Jason Box, a glacier specialist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. In less than half a century, from 1971 to 2019, its average annual temperature rose 3.1 °C, compared to 1 °C on the planet.

In an earlier report published in 2019, AMAP indicated Arctic warming was “more than double the world average”.

forest fires

According to the researchers, in 2004 there was a turnaround, with an as yet unexplained rise in the thermometer in the polar circle, after which the warming increased to a 30% higher rate than before. The region is now the scene of “more numerous and longer winter heat episodes,” explains Jason Box.

These are meteorological phenomena that occur in the region, mainly during the period of ice formation, between October and May. To the “summer”, from June to September, is added the heat released by the oceans, with less and less sea ice and the insulation they provide.

And the trend it is far from over since, according to the projections cited in the report, average temperatures in the Arctic will rise by the end of the century. between 3.3 °C and 10 °C above average for the period 1985 to 2014. The increase will depend on the volume of future greenhouse gas emissions.

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The warming of this region has immediate consequences on ecosystems: modification of the habitat, eating habits, fauna interactions -such as the symbolic polar bear-, the migration of certain species.

Of Siberia to Sweden via Alaska, forest fires have become a recurrent problem. In addition to the risk to human safety, “the smoke they produce also contains carbon dioxide and carbon black, which contribute to climate change,” warns American researcher Michael Young.

planetary impact

The consequences are also dramatic for the four million people who live in these latitudes, especially the indigenous populations. “Hunters in northwestern Greenland say the period during which dog sledding is possible has increased from five to three months,” explains Sarah Trainor, director of the Alaska Center for Climate Policy and Assessment.

“Hunters and fishermen in Canada and Russia report thinner seals, less healthy wildlife and more worms on fish and marine mammals,” he adds.

A warmer Arctic means a wetter Arctic. Rain replaces snow and contributes to the formation of ice sheets that prevent deer from feeding on lichens. The effects of climate change in the region go far beyond.

O millions of tons of ice melting each year in Greenland, for example, raise sea level, posing a threat to populations thousands of kilometers away.

The melting of the ice sheet opens up economic possibilities: new fishing areas, commercial sea routes, easier access to oil and gas resources. “However,” insists Sarah Trainor, “the potential for expansion of these industries is being undermined by efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.”


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