The “rapid and pronounced warming” of the Arctic is already wreaking havoc in the world’s northernmost communities, including those in Europe, according to a report.
In its 16th Annual Arctic Report, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that changes in the Arctic are likely to affect remote communities in the region, already posing a danger to the millions who live there. .
“Human-caused climate change is pushing the Arctic into a dramatically different state than it was a few decades ago,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinard said at a news conference presenting the report. “The trends are constant, alarming and undeniable.”
The Arctic climate is of global importance because it is essentially the refrigerator of the world, it helps to cool the planet. according to the US National Ice and Snow Data Center.. However, the climate crisis has contributed to destructive changes in the region’s unique climate and ecology. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. 2021 was the seventh warmest year on record in the Arctic, while October to December 2020 was the warmest fall on record dating back to 1900, according to the report.
The trends in Europe are worrying. Surface air temperatures in the European Arctic from October 2020 to September 2021 were the second highest recorded since 1900. The summer of 2020 in Eurasia marked the longest snow-free period in the region since 1998, when the snowfalls began. records. Rain was even observed for the first time at a research station in Greenland at 3,216 meters (10,500 feet) above sea level.
The report card included peer-reviewed analyzes and observations from 111 scientists from 12 countries, including examples of how climate change has already proven deadly in the Arctic.
A chapter explained in 2017, a tsunami that killed four people in Greenland was likely caused by a retreat from a glacier that exposed a steep rock slope. Glacier retreat is caused by climate change.
“That’s why we’re talking about these cascading effects,” Dr. Hanne Christiansen, co-author of the section looking at the threats posed by melting glaciers and melting permafrost, told Euronews.
“One thing that triggers the next thing that triggers the next thing, and in this example, the bottom line is that it killed people, because you have this tsunami sweeping through a village that is not warned,” Christiansen said. who is a professor of physical geography at Svalbard University Center.
Svalbard It is a remote archipelago that lies between Norway and the North Pole. Its largest city, Longyearbyen, is often considered the northernmost settlement in the world. Its 2,100 inhabitants live with polar bears.
The islands are also on the front lines of climate change. Temperatures have risen by 3-5 degrees Celsius since the early 1970s, a 2019 report from the Norwegian government found. Projected changes in climate, rising temperatures and changes in permafrost “will likely increase the frequency of all kinds of avalanches and landslides already occurring in the Longyearbyen area,” the report said.
Christiansen has lived in Svalbard for over 20 years. He said climate change there has been one of the most drastic seen in the Arctic region. However, he added that the archipelago’s maritime environment makes the region prone to larger climate changes than a settlement located on a continent.
“One season can be very cold, the other can be very warm. We’re used to having a January of minus 30 (degrees Celsius), and next year, maybe it will be plus 2 (degrees Celsius), ”said Christiansen.
Christiansen said the variability makes it difficult to measure the effect of climate change on permafrost, something he is currently investigating.
“You need to understand variability, and that’s why we’ve been collecting data for 10, 20 years.”
While climate change poses a threat to the entire Arctic, the challenges for Arctic communities in Europe are slightly different than in places like Siberia and Alaska.
“The danger to the people who live there depends on what they are living in from time to time,” Dr Michael Tjernström, professor of boundary layer meteorology at Stockholm University, told Euronews.
Communities in northern Scandinavia that are predominantly reindeer herders have been affected by increasing amounts of rainfall, even in winter.
“The rain in the snow creates layers in the snow, and the reindeer have trouble getting through and can’t find food,” Tjernström said.
Fishing-dependent populations, such as those living in the Bering Sea in northern Norway, must find a way to cope with changes in the fish population.
“It is not necessarily that climate change is different in different parts of the Arctic. It’s more that the lifestyle of these populations is different, ”said Tjernström.
Tjernström compared the devastating events and records broken featured on NOAA’s Arctic Report Card to the brushstrokes of a painting.
The report shows examples of how the climate crisis plays out in a given year, but it takes a step back and looking at longer-term trends to understand how the Arctic is changing.
“Climate change is not what happens this year. Climate change is a slow process, “said Tjernström. “Gradual change is the real threat. It lays the foundation for everything else. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism