Quantcast

The Past 5 Years Were the Arctic's Warmest on Record

In 2018, the Arctic region had the second-lowest overall sea-ice coverage on record. NOAAPMEL / YouTube

The Arctic is still warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth, and the region's air temperatures in the past five years between 2014-2018 have exceeded all previous records since 1900, according to a peer-reviewed report released by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday.

The agency's 13th annual Arctic Report Card also concluded that 2018 was second only to 2016 in terms of the region's overall warmth.


Rising temperatures have resulted in rapid loss of sea ice."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," the report said.

This long-term warming trend has also resulted in "new issues ... that we weren't really anticipating," Emily Osborne, an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who presented the Arctic report card, said at a Tuesday interview at the American Geophysical Union conference in Washington.

For instance, NOAA scientists observed that melting sea ice has led to the increasing presence of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean that threatens food sources.

The 2018 Arctic Report Card found the Arctic region had the second-lowest overall sea-ice coverage on record.The map shows the age of sea ice in the Arctic ice pack in March 1985 (left) and March 2018 (right). Ice that is less than a year old is darkest blue. Ice that has survived at least 4 full yeNOAA / Climate.gov

Other noticeable changes driven by Arctic warming include declining terrestrial snow cover, the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice and increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, the report revealed.

While the Arctic has become more green and opened more vegetation for grazing, NOAA pointed out that herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the tundra have declined by nearly 50 percent in the past two decades.

In the Bering Sea off Alaska's west coast, "ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500 percent higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season," according to the report.

NOAA also warned that microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

In response to the report card, conservation groups pointed out that the consequences of a warming Arctic go beyond the region.

"This is yet another stark reminder of climate change's indelible mark on our world. Warming temperatures are thawing permafrost and shrinking Arctic sea ice. These changes rob wildlife species of their habitat, and raise sea levels around the world, affecting communities from Nome to New Orleans," Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. Arctic programs, said in an online statement.

Williams added, "The devastating hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. and deadly wildfires in California have shown that impacts of climate change are catastrophic and costly. We know those impacts are coming faster than expected, and we know that current efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are not enough to slow the train. The good news is it's not too late to correct the course. As leaders meet this week at the UN climate talks in Poland, we urge them to run, not crawl, towards reducing emissions and accelerating a clean energy transition. Our Earth, and all species that call it home, depend on it."

Watch this NOAA video about the Arctic Report Card:

Arctic Report Card 2018 www.youtube.com

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less