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’Sobering’ report reveals Arctic’s temperatures are higher now than in past 1,500 years

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer
December 14, 2017, 4:58:24 AM EST

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The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the "reliably frozen" state in which it existed during recent decades, according to a new report.

This year’s peer-reviewed Arctic Report Card claims the Arctic has reached a "new normal" as the region’s air temperatures continue to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase.

“The report is very sobering and hopefully a wake-up call to policymakers across the world,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

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Environmental activists display a banner as they protest at Pantheon monument in support of the Paris climate accord, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)


“Many countries in the mid- and lower latitudes may not be seeing the extreme impacts of climate change as of yet, but these rapid changes are clearly happening in the world's oceans and especially across the Arctic,” he said.

The report concluded that the rates of sea ice decline and rising temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years and likely longer than that.

This year’s maximum winter sea ice area was the lowest ever observed.

“When we decrease the ice, we increase the amount of open water, which is a darker surface and, therefore, absorbs more heat than the white colored ice and snow,” Anderson said.

Increasing heat can impact weather patterns in other parts of the world.

“There are studies that indicate that the increase of heat into the Arctic atmosphere can lead to a weakening of the Polar Vortex, which in turn can lead to more extreme weather down in the middle latitudes,” he said.

Sea ice is also thinning each year, with year-old ice making up 79 percent of coverage, and multi-year ice only 21 percent.

In 1985, multi-year ice accounted for 45 percent of sea ice.

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“The rapid loss of older, thicker sea ice and increase of newer, thinner ice is critical, in my opinion,” Anderson said. “This newer, thinner ice is much more susceptible to complete melt off during the summer.”

Though it's up for debate whether these changes are reversible, it’s widely accepted that warming will continue without human intervention.

Two years ago this week, more than 200 countries congregated to establish the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to hold climate change below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

A year and a half after the meeting, Donald Trump announced he would be pulling out, stating that the pact was unfair to the United States.

Once the withdraw process is complete, the United States is expected to be the only country globally not committed to the agreement.

“If we do nothing in terms of combating climate change, it is much more likely that we will continue to see an acceleration of these changes this century and beyond,” Anderson said.

“The rapid increase in greenhouse gases is the primary culprit, thus it makes sense that the world must do everything it can to reduce these emissions,” he said.

Released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday, the peer-reviewed report is a collaboration of 85 scientists from 12 nations.

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