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Researchers Warn Arctic Has Entered 'Unprecedented State' That Threatens Global Climate Stability
By Jon Queally
A new research paper by American and European climate scientists focused on Arctic warming published Monday reveals that the "smoking gun" when it comes to changes in the world's northern polar region is rapidly warming air temperatures that are having — and will continue to have — massive and negative impacts across the globe.
The paper new paper — titled Key Indicators of Arctic Climate Change: 1971–2017 — is the work of scientists at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland in Copenhagen (GUES).
"The Arctic system is trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic," said Jason Box of the GUES, lead author of the study. "Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions. Another example is the disruption of the ocean circulation that can further destabilize climate: for example, cooling across northwestern Europe and strengthening of storms."
John Walsh, chief scientist at AUF's research center, was the one who called arctic air tempertures the "smoking gun" discovered during the research — a finding the team did not necessarily anticipate.
"I didn't expect the tie-in with temperature to be as strong as it was," Walsh said. "All the variables are connected with temperature. All components of the Arctic system are involved in this change."
The study, published Monday as the flagship piece in a special issue on Arctic climate change indicators published by the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first of its kind to combine observations of physical climate indicators — such as snow cover, rainfall and seasonal measurements of sea ice extent — with biological impacts, such as a mismatch in the timing of flowers blooming and pollinators working. According to Walsh, "Never have so many Arctic indicators been brought together in a single paper."
This three-and-a-half minute video put together by the research team, explains its methodology and findings in detail:
The new study comes as temperature records in the polar regions continue to break record after record. Last week, climatologists said Alaska experienced the highest March temperatures ever recorded.
Statewide temperatures averaged 27°F degrees last month, a full 4 degrees higher than the record set in 1965. Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the International Arctic Research Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks, told the Anchorage Daily News, "We're not just eking past records. This is obliterating records."
Also last month, as Common Dreams reported, the UN Environment Programme (ENUP) warned in a far-reaching report that winter temperatures in the Arctic are already "locked in" in such a way that significant sea level increases are now inevitable this century.
Rising temperatures, along with ocean acidification, pollution, and thawing permafrost threaten the Arctic and the more than four million people who inhabit it, including 10 percent who are Indigenous. But, as UNEP acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya noted at the time, "What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic."
That warning was echoed by the researchers behind the new study out Monday. Their hope, they said, is that the findings about air temperatures and the delicate interconnections between the climate and other natural systems in the Arctic will "provide a foundation for a more integrated understanding of the Arctic and its role in the dynamics of the Earth's biogeophysical systems."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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