The Arctic Report Cards produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are a source of reliable and brief information on the current state of the Arctic environment. The Arctic Council working groups CAFF and AMAP supported work on the 2012 Report Cards, which detail dramatic changes in the Arctic with record losses of sea ice and late spring snow. The Arctic Council, through the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna’s (CAFF) Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP), has contributed to the Arctic Report Card, an annual report released today by NOAA that monitors the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic.
The peer-reviewed report contains contributions from 141 authors from 15 countries. For this year's issue CAFF’s CBMP developed and edited the terrestrial and marine ecosystem chapters in cooperation with others, while AMAP organized an independent peer-review process involving international experts.
The Arctic region continued to break records in 2012—among them the loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were unremarkable relative to the last decade, according to the report.
Major findings include:
Snow cover: A new record low snow extent for the Northern Hemisphere was set in June 2012, and a new record low was reached in May over Eurasia.
Sea ice: Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September 2012 set a new all-time record low, as measured by satellite since 1979.
Greenland ice sheet: There was a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event on the Greenland ice sheet in July, covering about 97 percent of the ice sheet on a single day.
Vegetation: The tundra is getting greener and there’s more above-ground growth. During the period of 2003-2010, the length of the growing season increased through much of the Arctic.
Wildlife and food chain: In northernmost Europe, the Arctic fox is close to extinction and vulnerable to the encroaching Red fox. Additionally, massive phytoplankton blooms below the summer sea ice suggest estimates of biological production at the bottom of the marine food chain may be ten times too low.
Ocean: Sea surface temperatures in summer continue to be warmer than the long-term average at the growing ice-free margins, while upper ocean temperature and salinity show significant interannual variability with no clear trends.
Weather: Most of the notable weather activity in fall and winter occurred in the sub-Arctic due to a strong positive North Atlantic Oscillation. There were three extreme weather events including an unusual cold spell in late January to early February 2012 across Eurasia, and two record storms characterized by very low central pressures and strong winds near western Alaska in November 2011 and north of Alaska in August 2012.
The major findings listed above reinforce the findings presented in AMAP’s recent assessment of snow, water ice and permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA), see http://www.amap.no/swipa
The Arctic Report Card was released today at a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, California. For more information on this year’s report please visit: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/
Full article photo: Melting sea ice by Malin Johansson