Air temperatures continue to see drastic increases in the Arctic according to a new NOAA-led report. They are rising at more than twice the rate of global air temperatures.

“Arctic warming is setting off changes that affect people and the environment in this fragile region, and has broader effects beyond the Arctic on global security, trade, and climate,” Craig McLean, acting assistant administrator for the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, said during a press conference.

Less Snow Cover

One of the obvious impacts of increasing temperatures is less snow cover. Snow cover in the Arctic during spring of 2014 was below the long-term mean of 1981-2010. A new record low was set in April for Eurasia.

Snow melted up to a month earlier than normal across portions of Russia, Scandinavia, the Canadian subarctic and western Alaska. Below average accumulation and warmer temperatures were responsible for the disappearing snow cover.

Sea Ice

Sea ice measurements in September 2014 were the sixth lowest since satellite observations started in 1979. It’s not as low as some recent years, but the eight lowest sea ice extents have been in the last eight years.

Tundra and Plankton

The greenness of the tundra continues to increase. Between 1982 and 2013, the tundra biomass has increased by 20% according to the NOAA report. Researchers did note a ‘browning’ trend in Eurasia as summer air temperatures decreased some.

In the sea, there have been more phytoplankton blooms in the fall. The decrease in sea ice means more sunlight is entering the ocean and triggering these blooms. Check out the image below to see one of the blooms

arctic plankton bloom

What Does NOAA’s Report Mean

The extent of sea ice did not hit a record low in 2014. NOAA’s report highlights the variation from year-to-year. Data will show drastic shifts in the near term, but the long-term trend remains less ice and higher temperatures in the Arctic.

Image credits: NASA


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