The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued the first update of a report tracking the state of the Arctic. The NOAA indicates that “some changes in that region are larger and occurring faster than those previously predicted by climate models, while other indicators show some stabilizing.”
An international team of scientists, including a NOAA lead author, prepared the “Report Card.” Richard Spinrad, NOAA assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research noted: “The Arctic is an extraordinarily interconnected region, so what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. There will be significant environmental effects throughout the globe resulting from changes in the Arctic. This annual update provides key information to decision makers and the scientific community on changes that are taking place in the Arctic now.”
An international team of research scientists created a peer-reviewed web site: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/, which tracks multiple changes in the Arctic environment. Their findings confirm earlier studies, indicating that “relative to amounts of Arctic sea ice in the 1980s, the region lost almost 40 percent of the summertime sea ice in the central Arctic in 2007.”
While the ice reduction is the most dramatic result of increased temperatures in the Arctic, the study also notes that changes have occurred “in the atmosphere, on land, in the ocean, and in location and abundance of Arctic species.”
“The purpose of the Report Card is to provide a concise, scientifically credible and accessible source of information on recent changes in the Arctic,” explained Jacqueline Richter-Menge, the chief editor of the project, from the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.
One of the lead authors, James Overland, a scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash., has identified “a wind circulation pattern blowing more warm air towards the North Pole, compared to the circulation patterns in the 20th century.”
The fate of the Greenland ice sheet represents a large uncertainty. According to studies by a team headed by Edward Hanna of the University of Sheffield, “recent ice loss is about the same as in the early 20th century, but one cannot exclude a potentially faster response, as mechanisms remain incompletely understood.”
There are signs that some “stabilization” is occurring in the Arctic. As an example the NOAA noted that “North Pole ocean temperatures are returning to 1990s values, but currents are relatively warm around the edges of the Arctic Ocean.” In addition while “permafrost melt” remains a serious problem, there are signs that “permafrost temperatures are stabilizing in both North America and Eurasia.”
The NOAA’s “Report Card brings together cutting edge information on changes in Arctic systems,” stated Mike Gill, Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program Secretariat in Canada, and a co-editor of the study. “The Report Card reinforces that natural systems in the Arctic continue to undergo significant change, with climate change likely playing an increasing role – emphasizing the need for ongoing and enhanced monitoring.”
The Report Card is organized by NOAA and will be updated annually. It is a contribution to the international Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Program.
Source NOAA – http://www.noaa.gov
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