published on 13 December 2018 in water

Arctic: record temperatures in 2018 too

The year 2018 has been the second warmest year ever recorded in the Arctic and there is reason to believe that this trend towards warming will continue, disrupting the terrestrial weather models. This is what NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) states in its recently published 2018 Arctic Report Card, the annual update on the state of the Arctic regions. According to this report, air temperatures in the Arctic have increased twice as fast as in the rest of the planet, over the past 5 years exceeding all previous records since 1900. This trend seems to alter the shape and strength of the air current that influences weather in the northern hemisphere, causing abnormal weather events. Moreover, the warming of the atmosphere continues to generate long-term trends, such as the declining ice cover on land, melting of Greenland’s ice sheet and expansion and increased greenness of Arctic tundra vegetation. While there is an increase in the vegetation available for grazing, the populations of herds of wild caribou and reindeer that inhabit the Arctic tundra have fallen by almost 50% over the past two decades. Due to the increase in temperatures, the ice in the Arctic Sea remains young as well as covering a smaller area and being thinner: over the past twelve years, satellites have detected a continuous and constant shrinking of the area of Arctic ice. The warming of the Arctic Ocean also coincides with the proliferation of algae that negatively influence marine ecosystems and food chains. Lastly, there is a growing contamination by microplastics, which are a threat to sea birds and marine life.

“Continuous warming of the atmosphere and of the ocean in the Arctic is determining a huge change in the environment”: it is doing so “in a predictable, but in some senses also unexpected way,” experts write. “New threats are emerging rapidly, revealing the level of uncertainty in the extent of the environmental change that awaits us.” Despite this warning by the scientific community, in reality the melting of Arctic ice has aroused the interest of nations like the United States, Canada and Russia, opening up new sea routes and increasing access to a region thought to be rich in petroleum and minerals. Both the USA and Russia, in fact, have expressed interest in stepping up drilling.

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