A new report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) on Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic highlights the rapid and widespread changes in the Arctic’s sensitive climate systems mostly due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.
One of the key findings of the report by AMAP, which is one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, is that “the Arctic’s climate is shifting to a new state.”
“With each additional year of data, it becomes increasingly clear that the Arctic as we know it is being replaced by a warmer, wetter, and more variable environment. This transformation has profound implications for people, resources, and ecosystems worldwide,” says a summary for policymakers.
The Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in summer as early as the late 2030s, only two decades from now. New scientific evidence indicates that low-end projections of global sea-level rise made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are underestimated, it says.
The report is based on an assessment, conducted from 2010 to 2016 and involving more than 90 scientists.
Other key findings include:
Climate change in the Arctic has continued at a rapid pace
Arctic temperatures are rising faster than the global average, and have been warming more than twice as rapidly as the world as a whole for the past 50 years. The frequency of some extreme events is changing.
Changes will continue through at least mid-century, due to warming already locked into the climate system
Warming trends will continue. Models project that autumn and winter temperatures in the Arctic will increase to 4–5°C above late 20th century values before mid-century, under either a medium or high greenhouse gas concentration scenario. This is twice the increase projected for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole.
Substantial cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions now can stabilize impacts after mid-century
Reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will make a difference. The changes underway in the Arctic are expected to continue through at least mid-century. However, the Arctic will not return to previous conditions this century under the scenarios considered in the SWIPA 2017 assessment.
Adaptation policies can reduce vulnerabilities
Adaptation at the community and regional levels, both in the Arctic and globally, is essential. The near inevitability of accelerating impacts in the Arctic and globally between now and midcentury reinforces the urgent need for local and regional adaptation strategies that can reduce vulnerabilities and take advantage of opportunities to build resilience.
Effective mitigation and adaptation policies require a solid understanding of Arctic climate change
Reducing knowledge gaps will improve our ability to respond to current and future changes in the Arctic. Efforts are needed to increase the geographic coverage
of observations, improve local-level projections, and reduce uncertainties.
Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA): summary for policy-makers available here
SWIPA video available here