ORLANDO, Fla. – This week on Forecasting Change I want to show you the part of the planet that is warming the fastest. Unbelievably, it is not Florida! We have focused on our warmer days, hot fall weather, and droughts that are part of the “new normal” in climate change, but it is the Arctic that is changing fast and where the evidence of our changing climate can be seen.
Let us start with the changes in Greenland. The summer ice melt has been up in the last decade. The highest melt occurred in 2012. But on Aug. 14 this summer, rain fell on the Greenland Ice Sheet for more than nine hours. This marked the third time in less than a decade this area had temperatures above freezing. In July, one melt had the seventh-largest melt area and fourth-highest runoff in satellite recorded history.
The ice in the Arctic can have different ages. Thin ice is usually what is called first-year ice. This ice forms and melts within a year. The thicker ice is multi-year ice. This ice survives for more melting seasons. But now that the Arctic is warming the amount of “thick” or “older” ice is in decline. This year we now have the lowest amount of multiyear ice on record.
Check out the graphic below.
Snow and ice are instrumental in balancing the temperature of the Earth. The ice reflects sunlight and keeps the planet cool. When we lose ice, the ground and ocean absorb the sunlight and the surface warms. This warming leads to a spiral that creates more melting.
The end effects of Artic warming are extensive. The warming of permafrost leads to more greenhouse gases being released into our atmosphere. A warm Arctic creates changes to the jet stream that change our seasons by creating strong winter storms, long summer heat waves and changes to our ocean currents.
Remember, unlike the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” slogan, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. What happens in the Arctic is creating changes for us all.