Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Welcome to the ‘New Arctic’: The Region ‘As We Once Knew It Is No More’

Climate
Shutterstock

By Andy Rowell

For many people in the Northern Hemisphere who celebrate Christmas, the iconic image is one of snow or a Santa Claus driving a sleigh through the snow driven by reindeer.

Depending on which version of the Santa Claus story you read, his home is in the Arctic, possibly at the North Pole. Images of snowy Santas will adorn many holiday cards sent this year.


But as the Christmas images stay the same, the Arctic itself is rapidly changing. Scientists now talk of the "Old Arctic" as the one we once knew and the "New Arctic" as the one being fundamentally transformed by climate change.

The "Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades," starts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Arctic Annual Report Card.

The report continues that, despite relatively cool summer temperatures, the region has reached a new normal, characterized by "long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers, and warming sea surface and permafrost temperature."

This is not good news. Writing about NOAA's findings in Grist, the meteorologist Eric Holthaus said that what the scientists are telling us is that "The Arctic as we once knew it is no more."

Holthaus reports on a press conference to release the report, where acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet outlined why we should all be concerned: Because the warming Arctic is affecting weather patterns worldwide. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic—it affects the rest of the planet," said Gallaudet.

Last week, Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA's Arctic Program, added that the changes are happening so fast that "there is no normal. That's what so strange about what's happening in the Arctic. The environment is changing so quickly in such a short amount of time that we can't quite get a handle on what this new state is going to look like."

"Whether they be wildfires out in California or hurricanes down in the Gulf we have to think about the impacts that changes in the Arctic are having on those disruptive climate events," said Mathis.

While the warming Arctic affects us all, it will affect the Inuit the most. Last month, the New York Times reported that "lost ice means lost hope for an Inuit village."

Reporting from Rigolet, Labrador in Canada, the article says, "The Inuit have a word for changes they are seeing to their environment: uggianaqtuq. It means 'to behave strangely.' But it is not just the weather that's in turmoil."

The Times quoted Ashlee Cunsolo, a public health researcher and director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, who has been studying the link between climate change and mental health.

Cunsolo and her team found that "melted ice, shorter winters and unpredictable weather made people feel trapped, depressed, stressed and anxious, and in some cases, led to increased risk of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts."

"All humans, whether we want to admit it or not, are impacted by the natural environment," Cunsolo told the Times.

And the lesson from the Arctic is that what happens in the region will affect us all. It is worth remembering that if or when you open an Christmas card with Santa on it.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Jörg Carstensen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

Bayer AG is reneging on negotiated settlements with several U.S. law firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sources involved in the litigation said on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

With many schools now closed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may be looking for activities to keep your children active, engaged, and entertained.

Although numerous activities can keep kids busy, cooking is one of the best choices, as it's both fun and educational.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
In Germany's Hunsrück village of Schorbach, numerous photovoltaic systems are installed on house roofs, on Sept. 19, 2019. Thomas Frey / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.

Read More Show Less

In many parts of the U.S., family farms are disappearing and being replaced by suburban sprawl.

Read More Show Less
General view of the empty Alma bridge, in front of the Eiffel tower, while the city imposes emergency measures to combat the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, on March 17, 2020 in Paris, France. Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

Half the world is on lockdown. So, the constant hum of cars, trucks, trains and heavy machinery has stopped, drastically reducing the intensity of the vibrations rippling through the Earth's crust. Seismologists, who use highly sensitive equipment, have noticed a difference in the hum caused by human activity, according to Fast Company.

Read More Show Less