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High Arctic Archipelago experiencing Warmest Summers in 1,800 years

October 1, 2012; 6:58 PM ET

The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard has been experiencing their warmest summers in the last 1,800 years, according to a new study from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

"Our record indicates that recent summer temperatures on Svalbard are greater than even the warmest periods at that (Medieval Period) time," said the study's lead author, Dr. William D'Andrea, who is a climate scientist.

Since 1987, the summers on Svalbard have averaged 2 to 2.5 degrees C. or (3.6 to 4.5 degrees F) higher than what they were during the warmest parts of the Medieval Warm Period (950 to 1250).

The research team produced the 1,800 year climate record for the archipelago by analyzing levels of unsaturated fats in algae buried in sediments of a lake in western Svalbard.

Most Arctic climate records come from ice cores, but they usually only cover cold-season temperatures. Lake sediments can give you a picture of how the climate varied for the rest of the year, according to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Key excerpts from the LDEO article.................

In looking at how summers on Svalbard varied, researchers also discovered that the region was not particularly cold during another recent anomalous period - the "Little Ice Age" of the 18th and 19th centuries, when glaciers on Svalbard surged to their greatest extent in the last 10,000 years and glaciers in many parts of Western Europe also grew.They suggest that more snow, rather than colder temperatures, may have fed the growth of Svalbard glaciers.

Evidence from tree rings and ice cores shows that southern Greenland and parts of North America were warmer from 950 to 1250 than today, with the Vikings taking advantage of ice-free waters to settle Greenland. Some regions also saw prolonged drought, including California, Nevada and the Mississippi Valley, leading some scientists to coin the term Medieval Climate Anomaly to emphasize the extreme shift in precipitation rather than temperature. A natural increase in solar radiation during this time was responsible for warming parts of the northern hemisphere, with a rise in volcanic activity from 1100 to 1260 causing milder winters, University of Massachusetts scientist Ray Bradley explained in a 2003 Perspective piece in Science. Bradley is a co-author of the Svalbard lake sediment study.

Norwegian researchers estimate that average winter temperatures in Svalbard could rise as high as 10 degrees C. or 18 degrees F. by the end of the century.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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