The newest annual Arctic Report Card, a peer-reviewed assessment produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is painting a disturbing picture of the state of the region. The report focuses on the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. The report shows that the Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid shift into a new climate state, causing concern among scientists across the globe.
One of the main findings of the 2019 Arctic Report Card is that temperatures in the region remained near record highs this year and is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Anchorage, Alaska, set heat records in June, July and August. Reykjavik, Iceland experienced its warmest month on record in July. For the year ending in September, average temperatures were the second highest since 1900. The increased temperatures continue a six-year trend of rising temperatures in the Arctic.
The warming temperatures are having a devastating effect on Arctic sea ice, which continues to decline year after year. Arctic sea ice helps cool the polar regions and its loss affects the entire ecosystem. According to the report, 95 percent of the Greenland ice sheet thawed this year, melting seven times faster than it did in the 1990s. The ice in the Bering Sea saw an unprecedented reduction for the second winter in a row.
The rising temperatures are also causing more of the permafrost to thaw. Permafrost is the carbon-rich frozen soil that stretches across Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and Greenland. It encompasses 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s land mass. Melting permafrost emits greenhouse gases. Scientists believe that billions of metric tons of organic carbon could be released as the permafrost melts.