Arctic becoming warmer, greener region with record losses of summer sea ice and late spring snow

December 6, 2012
Difference from average temperature in the Arctic from 2001-2011 compared to the long-term average (1971-2000). Credit: NOAA

The Arctic region continued to break records in 2012—among them the loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were unremarkable relative to the last decade, according to a new report released today.

"The is changing in both predictable and unpredictable ways, so we must expect surprises," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, during a press briefing at the annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif. "The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world and with the warming scientists have observed, we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation."

Lubchenco participated in a panel discussion that presented the annual update of the Arctic Report Card, which has, since 2006, summarized the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. A record-breaking 141 authors from 15 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report. Major findings of this year's report include:

  • Snow cover: A new record low snow extent for the was set in June 2012, and a new record low was reached in May over Eurasia.
  • Sea ice: Minimum extent in September 2012 set a new all-time record low, as measured by satellite since 1979.
  • Greenland ice sheet: There was a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event on the in July, covering about 97 percent of the on a single day.
  • Vegetation: The tundra is getting greener and there's more above-ground growth. During the period of 2003-2010, the length of the growing season increased through much of the Arctic.
  • Wildlife & food chain: In northernmost Europe, the Arctic fox is close to extinction and vulnerable to the encroaching Red fox. Additionally, recent measurements of massive phytoplankton blooms below the summer sea ice suggest that earlier estimates of biological production at the bottom of the marine food chain may have been ten times lower than was occurring.
  • Ocean: Sea surface temperatures in summer continue to be warmer than the long-term average at the growing ice-free margins, while upper ocean temperature and salinity show significant interannual variability with no clear trends.
  • Weather: Most of the notable weather activity in fall and winter occurred in the sub-Arctic due to a strong positive North Atlantic Oscillation, expressed as the atmospheric pressure difference between weather stations in the Azores and Iceland. There were three extreme weather events including an unusual cold spell in late January to early February 2012 across Eurasia, and two record storms characterized by very low central pressures and strong winds near western Alaska in November 2011 and north of Alaska in August 2012.
"Popular perceptions of the Arctic as a distant, icy, cold place that has little relevance to those outside the region are being challenged", said Martin Jeffries, co-editor of the 2012 Report Card and Arctic science adviser, Office of Naval Research & research professor, University of Alaska-Fairbanks. "As snow and ice retreat, the marine and terrestrial ecosystems respond, and talk of increased tourism, natural resource exploitation, and marine transportation grows. The Arctic Report Card does a great service in charting the many physical and biological changes."

Ice concentration on Sept. 16, 2012, compared to previous record low (yellow line) and historic median extent (black line.) Credit: NOAA/National Snow & Ice Data Center

Apart from one or two exceptions, the scientists said the were not unusually high this year relative to the last decade. Nevertheless, they saw large changes in multiple indicators affecting Arctic climate and ecosystems; combined, these changes are strong evidence of the growing momentum of Arctic environmental system change.

The record-breaking year also indicates that it is unlikely that conditions can quickly return to their former state.

"The record low spring snow extent and record low summer in 2012 exemplify a major source of the momentum for continuing change," added Jeffries. "As the and retreat, we're losing bright, highly reflective surfaces, and increasing the area of darker surfaces—both land and ocean—exposed to sunlight. This increases the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting—a self-reinforcing cycle."

In 2006, NOAA's Climate Program Office introduced the State of the Arctic Report which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century. It is updated annually as the Arctic Report Card to monitor the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. To view this year's report, visit

Explore further: Arctic sea ice shrinks to third lowest area on record (Update)

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2.3 / 5 (16) Dec 06, 2012
Warm enough for dairy farms in Greenland for several hundred years?

3.2 / 5 (13) Dec 06, 2012
La, la, la, la, la........... It's getting colder up there.

I read that on some Conservative blog run by a Janitor who has written two self published books documenting that Obama is the anti-Christ.

He shows conclusively that if you take a plot of the official temperatures and rotate them by 30' clockwise, the temperatures fall, thus proving the global warming conspiracy.

2.8 / 5 (11) Dec 06, 2012
There have never been dairy farms in Greenland.

Poor ShooTard. He has been reading way too many Conservative know nothing blogs.

"Warm enough for dairy farms in Greenland for several hundred years?" - ShooTard
3.5 / 5 (13) Dec 06, 2012
Warm enough for dairy farms in Greenland for several hundred years?


It does not take many seconds for the uneducated to have their required say does it? Instead of spamming the internet with your rubbish shootist - why don't you try some reading?

3.2 / 5 (10) Dec 06, 2012
Warm enough for dairy farms in Greenland for several hundred years?


It has been warm enough for "dairy farms" of the type they had during the period of Norse settlement for over a hundred years now.

2.7 / 5 (7) Dec 06, 2012
Warm enough for dairy farms in Greenland for several hundred years?

Greenland was settled by Eric the Red in 985AD and the last Greenlander was found dead by seamen in 1540. Where did you get "several hundred years" from?
3.2 / 5 (13) Dec 06, 2012
A record-breaking 141 authors from 15 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report.

Here we have mostly unknown climate scientists who are largely oblivious of, and immune to, the political machinations of either side of the climate debate, as opposed to the "125 concerned scientists", most of whom are not climate scientists, and most of whom are press junkies and attention whores whose main claims to fame are most often as defenders of the most dubious, psuedo-scientific garbage on the internet.

Jeepers, who should I believe.....
2.3 / 5 (9) Dec 07, 2012
This is just in time, with the exploding human population and farm land being lost to urban sprawl, the additional tillable acreage is going to save humanity from starvation. Here we have all these dumbocrats voting for change, but really they're just a bunch of Luddites who want everything to stay the same in spite of the very real dangers posed by mass starvation extinction.
2.7 / 5 (7) Dec 07, 2012
Yep, cant understand normal thinking, that is the typical drivel expected from such as you when confronted with such stark truth.

Quick, tell us how those Birkeland Currents you don't understand are going to save us!

3 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2012
The map in the article clearly shows the North Polar Hole, thus proving that the Earth is hollow... believe that, and I have a permanently stable climate which can't be influenced by human activity to sell you.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2012
Yes, the earth is hollow and the hole shown in the above map is where the aliens who live there, enter and leave.

They also have tunnels under the white house which they use to secretly communicate with the U.S. government.

Here are Conservative science Blogs that documents everything...





2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2012
Here is a great documentary on how the aliens intend to invade up through the hollow earth.


Another excellent documentary can be found here.

2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2012
the very real dangers posed by mass starvation extinction.

Because conservatives oppose family planning
1 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2012
I had no idea that India, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Sudan were so "conservative".
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 09, 2012
What? They are all highly Conservative.

Religionists always are.

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