Warming temperatures are turning the tundra into a more lush area. The shrews are expanding their range. Garbage from ships is on the shore. The lands of Siberia have been permanently frozen.
The picture that scientists painted in their latest assessment of theArctic is heating up more than twice as quickly as the rest of the globe. The polar region is a potential example of what people at lower latitudes might experience as a result of human-caused climate change.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder was an editor of the new assessment. These are similar vulnerabilities that we will see unfold for our entire planet in the decades to come.
The administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that this year's report card does not recount record-breaking changes in the region's climate, but it still shows trends toward drastically different conditions there.
The snow cover and sea ice were below average. The volume of sea ice in the northern part of the world was the lowest in April since records began. Sea ice reflects most of the sunlight that strikes it.
The researchers said that this year's sea ice was thinner than in the past. Thinning ice has led to growth in shipping traffic, and a rise in garbage and noise pollution that could be affecting the movement of marine mammals.
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The snow cover in June was the third lowest on record. The fires that ravaged Siberia the past few summers have increased in potential.
The researchers reported that the ice sheet, which covers 650,000 square miles, experienced three "extreme melt" episodes this summer. It rained for the first time at the summit in August.
More than 100 scientists from 12 nations contributed to the latest report card on the planet.
Changing conditions at the top of the world can have cascading effects, according to Gabriel J. Wolken, a research scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Sea levels can rise due to melting glaciers. The frozen soils of the north store a lot of carbon. The carbon could be released into the air as the permafrost thaws.
There is an increased likelihood of a slide in the northern part of the planet. In Alaska, a slope failure at the edge of a glacier sent millions of tons of rock into a bay, creating one of the tallest documented tsunamis.
The authors of this year's report card emphasized that the residents of the northern part of the country were directly affected by all of the shifts. The researchers have begun to seek the input of local Indigenous communities in the production of the assessment.
Richard L. Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska, said that the changes are not abstract. It is not just about polar bears. It is about actual human beings, members of the world community that are being impacted.