A new study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) International Arctic Research Center has revealed air temperature changes in the Arctic to be the “smoking gun” behind the rapidly changing climate conditions and severe weather across the globe.
After investigating all of the potential triggers for extreme climate change across the region, the study authors found that “increasing air temperatures and precipitation are drivers of major changes in various components of the Arctic system.”
According to John Walsh, who is the chief scientist for the UAF, climate indicators are key pieces of information that capture the essence of a system. For example, the extent of sea ice in September represents the effects of variables such as wind, ocean heat, and air temperature.
This study is the first of its kind to combine observations of physical climate indicators, such as snow cover, with biological impacts.
“I didn’t expect the tie-in with temperature to be as strong as it was,” said Walsh. “All the variables are connected with temperature. All components of the Arctic system are involved in this change. Never have so many Arctic indicators been brought together in a single paper.”
The investigation was based on historical observations from 1971 to 2017 of nine key indicators including air temperature, permafrost, hydroclimatology, snow cover, sea ice, land ice, wildfires, terrestrial ecosystems, and carbon cycling.
“The Arctic system is trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic,” said study lead author Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
“Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions. Another example is the disruption of the ocean circulation that can further destabilize climate: for example, cooling across northwestern Europe and strengthening of storms.”
The study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
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