The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the planet over the past 40 years, according to a study published Thursday that suggests climate models underestimate the rate of polar warming.
The United Nations climate science panel said in a special report in 2019 that the Arctic is warming “more than twice the global average” due to a process known as Arctic amplification.
This happens when sea ice and snow, which naturally reflect the sun’s heat, melt with seawater absorbing it instead.
While there has long been consensus among scientists that the Arctic is warming rapidly, estimates vary depending on the timeframe studied and the definition of what constitutes the Arctic geographic area.
A team of researchers based in Norway and Finland analyzed four sets of temperature data collected through satellite surveys across the Arctic Circle since 1979 – the year satellite data became available.
They found the data showed the Arctic had been warming at an average of 0.75C per decade, almost four times faster than the rest of the planet.
“The literature suggests that the Arctic is warming about twice as fast as Earth, so it was a little surprising to me that ours was so much higher than the usual number,” Antti Lipponen, co-author of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, said AFP.
The study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, found significant regional differences in the rate of warming within the Arctic Circle.
For example, the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean near the Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos has been warming at up to 1.25°C per decade – seven times faster than the rest of the world.
The team found that even state-of-the-art climate models predicted Arctic warming to be about a third less than observed data showed.
They said this discrepancy could be due to previous modeled estimates being outdated by continued Arctic modelling.
“Perhaps the next step would be to look at the models, and I’d be really interested in seeing why the models don’t reproduce what we see in observations and what implications that has for future climate projections,” Lipponen said.
Intense warming in the Arctic will not only have profound impacts on local communities and wildlife that rely on sea ice for hunting, but will also have global impacts.
The Greenland ice sheet that recent studies warn of could be near a melting “tipping point,” containing enough frozen water to raise Earth’s oceans by about twenty feet.
“Climate change is caused by humans. As the Arctic warms, its glaciers will melt and this will affect sea levels globally,” Lipponen said.
“Something is happening in the Arctic and it will affect us all.”
#Arctic #warming #times #faster #rest #Earth #study