Arctic Ocean is Dying
Researchers on the world’s biggest mission to the North Pole will return to dock on Monday, bringing home devastating proof of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just decades.
The German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship is set to return to the port of Bremerhaven after 389 days spent drifting through the Arctic trapped in ice, allowing scientists to gather vital information on the effects of global warming in the region.
The team of several hundred scientists from 20 countries have seen for themselves the dramatic effects of global warming on ice in the region, considered “the epicentre of climate change”, according to mission leader Markus Rex.
“We witnessed how the Arctic ocean is dying,” Rex told AFP. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.” Underlining how much of the sea ice has melted away, Rex said the mission was able to sail through large patches of open water, “sometimes stretching as far as the horizon”. “At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice.”
The Arctic Is Shifting to a New Climate
The effects of global warming in the Arctic are so severe that the region is shifting to a different climate, one characterized less by ice and snow and more by open water and rain, scientists said Monday.
Already, they said, sea ice in the Arctic has declined so much that even an extremely cold year would not result in as much ice as was typical decades ago. Two other characteristics of the region’s climate, seasonal air temperatures and the number of days of rain instead of snow, are shifting in the same way, the researchers said.
Arctic communities are already suffering from the changes. Eroding coastlines are forcing some Alaska Native villages to consider relocating. Other changes are affecting the food supply. Warmer storms that bring rain on existing snow, for example, can lead to starvation of the animals Indigenous groups rely on.
An increasing number of polluting ships are now sailing across the Siberian coastal stretch of the Arctic Ocean because of the more open waters that have resulted from record melting sea ice.
An analysis by Reuters found that traffic through the icy waters’ busiest routes along the coast of Siberia increased 58% between 2016 and 2019. Those ships are carrying iron ore, oil, liquified natural gas and other fuels. Reuters says that the COVID pandemic has not slowed the trend, with 935 voyages being documented in the first half of 2020, compared with 855 in the same period last year.
Wildfires – Arctic
Wildfires raging in the Arctic Circle smashed last year’s records for carbon dioxide emissions, according to scientists at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
Using CAMS’ Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) data, scientists estimated that CO2 emissions from fires in the Arctic Circle have increased by more than a third, compared to 2019, with 244 megatonnes of carbon produced from January 1 to August 31, 2020. By comparison, 181 megatonnes of carbon were produced for the whole of 2019.
Most of the increased wildfire activity took place in Russia’s Sakha Republic, scientists said, ravaging millions of acres of land, and causing a spike in CO2 emissions.
Increasing Arctic freshwater is driven by climate change
New, first-of-its-kind research from CU Boulder shows that climate change is driving increasing amounts of freshwater in the Arctic Ocean. Within the next few decades, this will lead to increased freshwater moving into the North Atlantic Ocean, which could disrupt ocean currents and affect temperatures in northern Europe.
Since the 1990s, the Arctic Ocean has seen a 10% increase in its freshwater. That’s 2,400 cubic miles (10,000 cubic kilometers), the same amount it would take to cover the entire U.S. with 3 feet of water.
The salinity in the ocean isn’t the same everywhere, and the Arctic Ocean’s surface waters are already some of the freshest in the world due to large amounts of river runoff.
This freshwater is what makes sea ice possible: it keeps cold water at the surface, instead of allowing this denser liquid to sink below less dense, warm water. In this way, the Arctic Ocean is much different than other oceans. But as more freshwater exits the Arctic, this same stabilizing mechanism could disrupt the ocean currents in the North Atlantic that moderate winter temperatures in Europe.
Such disruptions have happened before, during the “great salinity anomalies” of the 1970s and 80s. But these were temporary events. If too much cold freshwater from the Arctic continuously flows into the North Atlantic, the ocean turnover could be disrupted more permanently.
Wildfires – Arctic
The Arctic Circle, home to some of the coldest places on Earth, is on fire. Intense wildfires are wreaking havoc in parts of Russia, Greenland and Alaska as the region faces yet another record-breaking heatwave. Scientists are now warning that these fires may become a regular occurrence, a grim reminder of the consequences the world will face as global temperatures continue to rise to unprecedented levels.
Smoke from wildfires in Siberia causing haze in Pacific Northwest
The smoke from wildfires raging in Siberia have drifted into the Pacific Northwest this week, causing haze in the skies. Upper level winds are picking up the smoke from the fires and pushing it 5,000 miles across the North Pacific and into USA skies.
Wildfires in the Arctic cause huge spike in carbon emissions
The Arctic region is heating twice as fast as the rest of the world and ‘zombie fires’ released 60-million tonnes of carbon dioxide in June alone
Wildfires that have raged in the Arctic Circle since early spring led to a record spike in pollution from the infernos in June. Arctic fires emitted 16.3-million tonnes of carbon — or about 60-million tonnes of carbon dioxide — last month. That’s the highest since at least 2003 and almost nine times more than the same month in 2018.
Wildfires – Arctic
Wildfires are ravaging parts of the Arctic Circle, with areas of Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada engulfed in flames and smoke.
Satellite images show that the plumes of smoke from the fires, many caused by dry storms in hot weather, can be seen from space.
Wildfires – Arctic
Active wildfires are being detected in the Arctic Circle as an unusually warm and dry spring threatens to bring back infernos that ravaged the region last year, scientists have warned.
Satellites belonging to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) are tracking multiple hotspots, leading to the suspicion that “zombie fires” – smouldering remnants of record blazes in 2019 are reactivating after a period of lull.
The risk of wildfires is significantly enhanced by abnormal arid conditions as seen in Europe during March and April.
Record Ozone Hole Over Arctic In March Now Closed
Ozone depletion over the Arctic hit a “record level” in March, the biggest since 2011, creating the largest recoded ozone hole over the Arctic, but the hole has now closed, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday.
The springtime phenomenon in the northern hemisphere was driven by ozone-depleting substances still in the atmosphere and a very cold winter in the stratosphere.
Arctic stratospheric ozone depletion hits record low
Ozone levels above the Arctic reached a record low for March, NASA researchers report. An analysis of satellite observations show that ozone levels reached their lowest point on 12 March, at 205 Dobson units.
While such low levels are rare, they are not unprecedented. Similar low ozone levels occurred in the upper atmosphere, or stratosphere, in 1997 and 2011. In comparison, the lowest March ozone value observed in the Arctic is usually around 240 Dobson units.
March 12, 2019, shows in reds and yellows the higher concentration of stratospheric ozone over the Arctic which are much more typical from year to year. Usually, from December through March, waves in the upper atmosphere disrupt the circumpolar winds and cause the mixing of ozone brought from the mid-latitudes as well as warming that leads to less ozone depletion.
“This year’s low Arctic ozone happens about once per decade,” says Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “For the overall health of the ozone layer, this is concerning since Arctic ozone levels are typically high during March and April.”
The March Arctic ozone depletion was caused by a combination of factors that arose due to unusually weak upper atmospheric “wave” events from December through March. These waves drive movements of air through the upper atmosphere akin to weather systems that we experience in the lower atmosphere, but much bigger in scale.
In a typical year, these waves travel upward from the mid-latitude lower atmosphere to disrupt the circumpolar winds that swirl around the Arctic. When they disrupt the polar winds, they do two things. First, they bring with them ozone from other parts of the stratosphere, replenishing the reservoir over the Arctic.
Ice Free Arctic
The Arctic may become “ice free” in as few as 15 years due to accelerating global heating, according to a team of U.S. scientists.
While areas of the thickest ice that surround islands near the North Pole are likely to survive until later this century, the region will be considered ice-free when the summer coverage is less than 386,000 square miles.
Writing in the journal Climate, the researchers say statistical models point to the first ice-free summer arriving during the 2030s, with 2034 the most likely year.
”The extent of Arctic ice is important to Arctic peoples, whose lands are being affected by increased coastal erosion,” NOAA said in a statement. “Conversely, the disappearance of ice creates economic opportunities, including the opening of oil fields and new shipping routes.”
Permafrost is thawing so fast it’s gouging holes in the Arctic
Residents of the small Alaskan town Kongiganak can no longer bury their dead. Their cemetery has become a marshy swamp, sucking graves into the once frozen ground. On the island of Sarichef near the Bering Strait, the village of Shishmaref is shrinking so fast locals are considering relocating it entirely.
Global warming has shown that permafrost is not so permanent after all. And as it begins to melt, it is reshaping the Arctic. The rapidly thawing ice layer is creating great sinkholes and hollows across the region as the ground begins to collapse in on itself. Erosion and landslides have become a problem without the ice that once held the soil together.
Permafrost – any area of land that remains frozen for at least two years – can vary from less than a metre thick to more than 1,500 metres. Some of it is tens of thousands of years old. In some areas, it is simply frozen rock. But in other parts, soils and organic matter have acted like a sponge and taken in water which has subsequently frozen. As ice, water takes up a larger volume than its liquid form, but once melted, great pits are created in the land.
The ice we’ve lost to climate change
One of the most poignant climate moments of 2019 was a funeral for ice: an August ceremony in Iceland for the country’s Okjökull glacier. As can be seen in these NASA satellite images, the glacier declined dramatically between 1986 and 2019.
The Arctic in particular is warming twice as fast as the global average and experienced many historic heat waves. The warming, in turn, is causing an unprecedented amount of melt in the world’s ice. We are currently in the midst of the fastest decline of Arctic sea ice in 1,500 years.
In the past decade, the rate of ice melt in Antarctica tripled compared to 2007.
We’ll likely lose even more from the coldest parts of the world in the coming decade. But the actions we all take will shape just how much is lost.
Arctic Report Card 2019: Extreme Ice Loss, Dying Species as Global Warming Worsens
When dead salmon wash ashore along the coast of the Bering Sea, the problem is much bigger than dead fish. It’s a sign of deeper trouble cascading through the Arctic’s ecosystems.
It’s been happening more and more the last few years—fish, dead or dying, rolling in with the tide, said Mellisa Johnson, executive director of the Bering Sea Elders Group. “The seals, they don’t want to eat those types of fish. They know they’re unhealthy for consumption. So then they don’t have enough fat reserves to last them.”
As the Arctic warms roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the effects are reverberating far beyond any single species. Massive systems—from the sea ice and permafrost to the jet stream—are beginning to behave in unexpected ways.
The changes are impacting species, fishing industries and local communities, including the people who have long called Bering Sea communities home. Indigenous hunters are working harder than ever to find the food they have long relied on, and they’re sometimes making macabre discoveries: sea birds dying en masse, nets filled with fish that have rarely been seen in those areas.