The Arctic Report Card has been unveiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week, and it shows the most drastic change in the area since records began.
This is the 13th Arctic Report Card to be carried out in conjunction with an international team of scientists, and this report remains deeply concerning.
Sea ice is said to be ‘younger, thinner and covering less areas than in the past’, with near-record sea ice minimums occurring year upon year for over a decade.
Ice which is older than four years now makes up less than 1% of the Arctic ice pack. This means that the younger ice is less likely to survive the warmer summer months. ‘Warmer air and ocean temperatures’ have been having a direct effect on Arctic ice, the deterioration of which could lead to rising sea levels and a breakdown of the marine ecosystem.
The effect on wildlife has been noticeable. Last month we reported on the erratic migratory habits of bears in the Wapusk National Park, Canada, charting activity which could be directly attributed to climate change in the Arctic region and neighbouring areas. Migratory herds of caribou and reindeer are falling, despite an increase in green areas, with numbers down almost 50% in the past few decades.
Microplastics are an ongoing problem in the Arctic as well, with the sea basin containing more traces of plastic than all of the other ocean basins in the world, according to a recent, cited study. Arctic sea traffic is listed as being a primary factor in this issue.
It makes for sobering reading, but essential nonetheless, if collective efforts are to be made to reverse the destructive natural trend which over industrialisation and fossil fuel dependence are creating.
Highlights of the report include:
In the Bering Sea region, ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season.
Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean and threatening food sources.
Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.
Pan-Arctic observations suggest a long-term decline in coastal landfast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s, affecting this important platform for hunting, traveling, and coastal protection for local communities.