The warming trend in the Arctic resulted in the “second warmest air temperatures, above average ocean temperatures, loss of sea ice, and a range of human, ocean and ecosystem effects” in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Arctic Report Card was released Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting in New Orleans. The NOAA-sponsored study included the work of 85 scientists from 12 nations and is peer reviewed.
“The rapid and dramatic changes we continue to see in the Arctic present major challenges and opportunities,” retired Navy Rear Admiral Dr. Timothy Gallaudet, the acting NOAA administrator, told reporters.
“This year’s Arctic Report Card is a powerful argument for why we need long-term sustained Arctic observations to support the decisions that we will need to make to improve the economic well-being for Arctic communities, national security, environmental health and food security.”
The melting sea ice offers an open channel to begin shipping goods in the Arctic year round, while also requiring a reexamined look at how U.S. security is affected as Russia looks to begin drilling and conducting other activities near U.S. borders. China is also examining inroads into the Arctic, according to experts.
Ahead of the report’s release, the National Geographic Society last week released a viral video of a starving polar bear, calling it the face of climate change in the Arctic, where the lack of sea ice makes it harder for the bears to find food.
"Arctic paleo-reconstructions, which extend back millions of years, indicate that the magnitude and pace of the 21st century sea-ice decline and surface ocean warming is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and likely much longer," according to the new NOAA report.
But the persistent change in "environmental conditions" that define the Arctic's "new normal" is increasing the Arctic Ocean's productivity of the marine food web, the report also said.
"Additionally, above-ground vegetation is also expanding and affecting hydrological dynamics, carbon and nutrient cycling, the surface energy balance, and the habits of wild and domesticated plant eaters," it added. The report added that the Arctic is becoming "bigger and leafier" as shrubs and trees are "taking over" grasslands and tundra. This could make wildfires a new problem that requires planning, the report said.
"The pervasive changes in the environment influence resource management protocols, including those established for fisheries and wildfires, and directly affecting the people living in Arctic communities," the report summary read.