It’s no secret that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, but new research indicates that the problem may be seriously underestimated.
According to a new study, the Arctic has actually warmed at least four times faster than the global average – even twice as fast as some previous estimates. The new research was published in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment.
The Arctic is known to be one of the regions of the world that has been most affected by climate change, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification or polar amplification.
One of the main factors driving this phenomenon is the feedback associated with melting sea ice and snowpack.
As the Arctic warms, it is less covered by snow and ice, thus becoming darker and less reflective, leading to the absorption of more solar energy. The Arctic is warming even more, and the problem continues in a vicious circle.
The Arctic, severely affected by climate change
The Arctic was usually thought to be warming two, perhaps even three times faster than the rest of the planet, due to polar amplification. However, new research from the Finnish Meteorological Institute shows that this is likely a huge underestimate.
Their team found that much of the Arctic Ocean warmed at a rate of 0.75°C per decade between 1979 and 2021, at least four times faster than the global average.
Elsewhere, the rise in temperature was even more severe. In the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean, near the Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos above Norway and Russia, warming was found to be 1.25°C per decade – seven times faster than the global average.
“While the magnitude of Arctic amplification depends to some extent on how the Arctic region is defined and the time period used in the calculation, climate models were found to underestimate Arctic amplification almost independently of the definition,” said Mika Rantanen, the study’s lead author and researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, according to IFL Science.
Is humanity underestimating this problem?
The researchers explained that some of the Arctic amplification is likely related to long-term natural variations in climate, but added that it is clearly inseparable from climate change directly caused by human activity.
Scientists have previously warned that temperatures have risen so rapidly around the North Pole that we should now consider the Arctic to have been moved into a new climate state. The “New Arctic” is an environment with significantly different sea ice volume, temperatures, rainy seasons, and snow precipitation than the “Old Arctic”.
If warming continues, we should expect to see huge changes in the region’s biodiversity and natural environment. However, we can also expect the plight of the polar regions to have an impact on other parts of the world in the form of rising sea levels and the release of methane from thawing permafrost. After all, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.