Bad News for the Arctic - Carlos Gamino WisconsinBy Carlos Gamino

The 2015 Arctic Report Card just came out – and the news isn’t so good.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the report card outlines the current state of affairs in the Arctic and subarctic, including the weather, sea ice, snow cover, and animal habitats.

The report shows that the region is continuing to warm at nearly double the global pace.

Rick Spinrad, the NOAA’s chief scientist, said that what’s happening there will move to the rest of the planet.

“We also know what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” said Spinrad at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The impacts, he said, “are creating major challenges for Arctic communities who depend on the region for sustenance and cultural identity.”

The report was authored by 72 scientists from 11 nations. Absent from the report: solutions.

“Unfortunately, we passed some critical points on that,” said Jim Overland, a NOAA oceanographer. “If the globe goes to 2-degree warming, we’re looking at a 4- or 5-degree warming for the winter in the Arctic by 2040, 2050. That’s based upon the CO2 that we’ve already put into the atmosphere and will be putting in for the next 20 years.”

The report showed that in the past year, Arctic air temperatures have dramatically increased. The warming trend is dumping fresh water into the Arctic Ocean – and that water is linked to increased rain, which is in turn linked to warmer temperatures.

Wildlife – particularly walruses, codfish and others – aren’t going to fare too well with the changes. Disappearing summer and fall sea ice poses a specific threat to walruses, who can’t find resting places and eventually drown. Codfish are moving to the Barents Sea in record numbers, as are other boreal fish.

“Almost every year we’re seeing new surprises on the rapidity of the types of changes that we’re seeing. So the real world with the data in the report card is the real information that things are rapidly evolving,” said Overland.

What Do You Think?

I don’t want to get into a debate over the cause of climate change, but I’d love to hear what you think about its effects. What will happen to sea life in the Arctic Circle, and is there anything we can do about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and you’re always welcome to share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino