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Global climate change

The Arctic continues to rapidly warm with no end in sight

By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
6/12/2019, 2:08:42 PM

The Arctic region continues to warm at about twice the rate than the planet as a whole and we see no evidence that this trend will significantly slow or reverse in the near future.

More and more of the sea ice is younger and thinner, which allows more of it to completely melt out during the summer season. With more open water, the albedo is decreased (water is a darker surface than snow/ice) and more of the sun's heat is absorbed at the surface, which in turn melts more ice.

Let's first look at Alaska

The spring of 2019 was the warmest on record for the state. The overall average temperature for the state during the season was a whopping 4.8 degrees Celsius or 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

Alaska's springs have warmed an average of 2.2 C or 4.0 F since the 1970s.

Sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas (surrounding portions of Alaska) remains at record low levels.

In the Beaufort Sea, sea ice extent is currently at 684,000 sg/km, which is more typical of what it would be in mid-August. The longer term average for this date is 905,000 sq/km.

The warmth is not just confined to Alaska. Much of Siberia is rapidly warming as well. Temperatures actually reached the mid-80s in northern Russia this past weekend, which is about 30-35 degrees above normal. This is not all that unusual anymore.

The charts below help visually show some of the changes that we are seeing in the Arctic, courtesy NASA GISS.

The image below shows the changes in temperature anomalies by latitude since 1880. It is clear that the most significant warming is taking place from 60 degrees latitude on north.

Another way to look at the zonal trends since 1880.

From 1900 to 1970 there was a clear warming trend in the Arctic region (see left image).

However, from 1970 to 2018 you can see that the rate of warming has greatly increased and expanded through the Arctic and into the mid-latitudes.

From the 30-year period from 1989-2018 you can see that all of the Arctic and a large portion of Russia averaged 1 to 2 degree Celsius above the 1951-1980 mean.

But, when you look at the last 10 years (2009-2018), temperature anomalies are about twice as high in the Arctic compared to the previous map.

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


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Global climate change