Quantcast

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


mevans / E+ / Getty Images

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less

A powerful earthquake struck near Athens, Greece and shook the capital city for 15 seconds on Friday, causing people to run into the streets to escape the threat of falling buildings, NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
U.S. government scientists concluded in a new report that last month was the hottest June on record. Angelo Juan Ramos / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less
Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

By John R. Platt

For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.

Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixnio

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Many types of flour are commonly available on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Read More Show Less
A visitor views a digital representation of the human genome at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Genetics are significantly more responsible for driving autism spectrum disorders than maternal factors or environmental factors such as vaccines and chemicals, according to a massive new study involving more than 2 million people from five different countries.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Across the globe, extreme weather is becoming the new normal.

Read More Show Less