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Air Quality

Published on December 19th, 2018 | by Cynthia Shahan

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NOAA’s 2017–2018 Arctic Report Card: Arctic Air Temperatures Warming At 2× Global Rate

December 19th, 2018 by  



It’s the 13th year of NOAA’s brilliant, visually beautiful, and timely Arctic Report Card. (Full 2018 PDF here.)

The executive summary updates ongoing changes as it reflects on a range of land, ice, and ocean observations made throughout the Arctic during the 2018 calendar year. For those who appreciate the comprehensive view, this is an immensely telling collaborative work. The 2018 report combines and includes the research of over 80 scientists from 12 countries. Take a look at a series of 14 essays written by more than 80 scientists.

The essays examine and synthesize the ongoing vision of arctic life and its relationship to environmental changes, such as through “The Vital Signs:” Surface Air Temperature, Terrestrial Snow Cover, Greenland Ice SheetSea Ice, Sea Surface Temperature, Arctic Ocean Primary Productivity: The Response of Marine Algae to Climate Warming and Sea Ice Decline, and Tundra Greenness.

November was the 5th Hottest on Record For the Globe.

The 2018 update highlights the changes that continue to occur in and among the physical and biological components of the Arctic environmental system.

The Arctic Saildrone is a wind-powered, unmanned surface water vehicle able to reach remote and harsh environments in the Arctic to collect important atmospheric and oceanic data.

The report also includes information on the fascinating technology used to assess and record the moment-to-moment, day-to-day, month-to-month ecosystems and environments of the Arctic, such as the Arctic Saildorne.

“This is a real game changer for NOAA’s ability to monitor the rapidly changing Arctic environment,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program, who watched the Bering Strait crossing from his smartphone in Washington, D.C. “Even five years ago, we could not have imagined a vehicle with this capability and endurance. I believe it will become a workhorse of our sustained Arctic observing system.”

Highlights of the 2017–2018 Arctic Report Card are:

*Surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014–18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.

*In the terrestrial system, atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation.

*Despite the increase of vegetation available for grazing, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50% over the last two decades.

*In 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years.

*Pan-Arctic observations suggest a long-term decline in coastal land-fast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s, affecting this important platform for hunting, traveling, and coastal protection for local communities.

*Spatial patterns of late summer sea surface temperatures are linked to regional variability in sea-ice retreat, regional air temperature, and advection of waters from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

*In the Bering Sea region, ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season.

Sailing drone captures dawn while crossing the Bering Strait

In the early hours of August 1 bound for a voyage of data collection, one of two remotely operated unmanned sailing vehicles snapped this dreamy dawn photo as it sailed through the choppy Bering Strait.

*Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean and threatening food sources.

*Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

Heightened concerns continue. The year ending September 2016 saw the highest (by far) average surface air temperatures in the region since at least 1900 (a 6.3° Fahrenheit increase since then).

Increasing weather and disaster challenges for coming generations are already in the itinerary, and the rocky and dangerous journey has actually just started. As Mathis said last year, “We’re fairly confident now,” Mathis said, that warmer temperatures in the Arctic are “creating conditions where more extreme weather events are beginning to show up in North America.”

 

Amplified Arctic warming in late spring and summer (yellow shading) tends to occur mainly over high-latitude continents. Through a mechanism called quasi-resonance, AAW favors the amplification of quasi-stationary jet-stream waves, leading to more persistent weather conditions and extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, floods in continental areas. (from Coumou et al., 2018).

If the Arctic Report Card stimulates your scientific curiosity, there’s more that intrigued me as I moved on to the American Meteorological Society that you may find interesting as well. The AMS or BAMS published Explaining Extreme Events in 2017 from a Perspective. You can download this one chapter by chapter on the website.

“This is the second year that scientists have identified extreme weather events that they said could not have happened without warming of the climate through human-induced climate change.”

Or, if you want a lighter yet still motive interactive focus, watch Living in The Future’s Past over the holidays. It includes and was made by a climate-concerned yet buoyant artistic collaboration with Jeff Bridges and a tapestry of experts on planetary well-being, science, evolution, emergence, energy, psychology, and more.

And remember Jeff’s words: “It’s Not Fear That Should Drive Us To Act, It’s Love” and “We love our children, don’t we?” 
 





 

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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