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The Arctic Is Becoming Wetter and Stormier

  • Published
    15th Dec, 2022
Context

According to findings of the annual assessment of the Arctic region, as humans warm the planet, the frigid and frozen Arctic is becoming wetter and stormier, with shifts in its climate and seasons affecting local communities, wildlife and ecosystems.

About

About trends in the Arctic:

  • Researchers noted the year 2022 as the Arctic’s sixth warmest year on record.
  • In 2021, in August heat wave caused by rain in Greenland, was highlighted at the ice sheet’s summit for the first time.
  • Temperatures in the Arctic Circle have been rising much more quickly than those in the rest of the planet, transforming the region’s climate into one defined less by sea ice, snow and permafrost and more by open water, rain and green landscapes.

Arctic and Vulnerability:

  • Changes in the amount of air pollution coming from Europe and natural multi-decade climate variations likely play a role.
  • But human-caused global warming is the underlying reason that the Arctic, and the planet as a whole, are heating up.
  • Loss of sea ice is one of the clearest drivers of Arctic warming.
  • The Arctic Circle is mostly ocean, which used to be frozen for most or all of the year.
  • But permanent sea ice is steadily shrinking, and seasonal ice is melting earlier in the year and re-forming later.
  • That means more open water. But while ice is bright and reflects heat from the sun, water is darker and absorbs it.
  • That heat helps melt more ice, which means more water to trap more heat – the loop feeds on itself, accelerating warming in the Arctic.
  • This feedback loop is largely responsible for what is known as Arctic amplification.

Impacts of Climate change in the Arctic:

  • Rapid Arctic warming affects people living far from the Arctic Circle.
  • For example, there is evidence that weather patterns are shifting across the U.S. and Europe as sea ice melts, and many marine species migrate between the tropics and the Arctic each year.
  • The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate, and the rate of accumulation of sea ice has been remarkably low since 2000, marked by young and thinner ice replacing the old and thicker ice sheets.
    • Greenlandic ice sheet holds the second largest amount of ice, after Antarctica, and therefore it is crucial for maintaining the sea level.
    • In 2019, this was the single biggest cause of the rise in the sea level, about 1.5 meters.
    • If the sheet melts completely, the sea level would rise by seven meters, capable of subsuming island countries and major coastal cities.
  • The warming is also increasing the incidence of rainfall which is affecting the availability and accessibility of lichens to the reindeer.
  • The Arctic amplification is causing widespread starvation and death among the Arctic fauna.

Arctic amplification:

The phenomenon, called Arctic amplification, is caused by the heat-trapping emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The pace of the temperature increase around the North Pole in recent decades was four times higher than the rest of the planet.

What is the impact on India?

  • In recent years, scientists have pondered over the impact the changing Arctic can have on the monsoons in the subcontinent.
    • The link between the two is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
  • In 2014, India deployed IndARC, India’s first moored-underwater observatory in the Kongsfjorden fjord, Svalbard, to monitor the impact of the changes in the Arctic Ocean on tropical processes such as the monsoons. 
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate.
    • One of the primary reasons for this rise is the melting of sea ice in the Polar Regions, especially the Arctic. The Arctic amplification furthers the idea that “what happens in the Arctic does not remain in the Arctic” and can substantially affect tropical processes far south. 
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