A decade of change brings the Great Melt to the Arctic

As the land of ice and snow, the impacts of climate chaos are most often measured as changes in ice. Sea ice, land ice and permafrost cover most of the Arctic, for much of the year. As air temperatures warm and weather changes, so too does the ice. The last decade has seen the greatest changes in the Arctic since record keeping began 40 years ago. Where once consistent patterns flowed of summer melt and winter replenishment, this cycle is now exaggerated in the summer months. 2012 remains the summer of greatest ice loss, on land and sea, but 2019 was very close to this, and the trend over the last decade has seen a shift toward lower sea ice extent over the Arctic and loss in the overall balance of ice on land. With temperatures an average of 2.7 degrees Celcius warmer at the poles, double that of the rest of the planet, the ice that cools our planet and defines the Arctic, has become incredibly vulnerable to change.

Iceberg Graveyard001-Andrea-Sparrow

Climate Change Evidence

Evidence of Change Comes in Many Forms

The Arctic Arts team of visual communicators witnessed first hand the dramatic melt currently happening in West Greenland. With temperatures soaring to 40ºF above average the seasonal melt was more than 4 weeks ahead of schedule in May. Over 90% of Greenland experienced melting at its peak in 2019, with total ice loss estimated to be more than 2 gigatons (equal to 2 billion tons) on just one day alone.

While Greenland is a rather large body of land comprised mostly of ice, it is highly unusual for that much ice to be lost in the middle of June. The average “melt season” for Greenland runs from June to August, with the bulk of the melting occurring in July. The Arctic Arts Team saw dramatic changes unfolding in May, and the summer continued at this unprecedented pace.

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The Arctic in flux

Greenland

The Arctic is warming twice as quickly as the global average (a phenomenon known as Arctic Amplification). In 2016 there was a calculated 350 billion metric tons of fresh water melt from the Greenland glaciers and ice cap.

Arctic permafrost

Average soil temperatures continue to rise throughout the Arctic tundra. With an average of 6 degrees Celsius of warming in the last 100 years, methane and carbon dioxide are being added to the overwhelming emissions of human activity.

Sea Ice

Warming temperatures in the Arctic are causing less sea ice to form in winter and greater melt of sea ice in summer. Land animals and marine life lose critical food sources and habitat as sea ice disappears.

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