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Report Card 2017

About Arctic Report Card 2017

The Arctic Report Card (hereafter ‘ARC’) has been issued annually since 2006. It is a timely and peer-reviewed source for clear, reliable and concise environmental information on the current state of different components of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records. The ARC is intended for a wide audience, including scientists, teachers, students, decision-makers, and the general public interested in the Arctic environment and science.

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Terrestrial Snow Cover

Satellite-derived estimates of SCE over Arctic land areas date back to 1967, and have shown dramatic reductions since 2005. This loss of spring snow over Arctic land areas is important because it influences the surface energy budget (snow is highly reflective of incoming solar energy), ground thermal regime (snow is a highly effective insulator of the underlying soil), and hydrological processes (the snowpack stores water in solid form for many months before spring melt).

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Greenland Ice Sheet

Reflecting surface air temperature patterns over the Greenland ice sheet, the April 2016-April 2017 season was characterized by relatively low summer (June, July, August) melt extent and ablation along the margins of the ice sheet. Correspondingly, the surface albedo, averaged over the entire ice sheet, was relatively high. The net ice mass loss over the year was near average.

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Sea Ice

The Arctic sea ice cover varies substantially over the year, with end-of-winter ice cover generally two to three times as large as at the end of summer. Sea ice is an important element of the climate system: (1) acting as a barrier between the underlying ocean and the atmosphere, (2) limiting the amount of absorbed solar energy due to its high albedo, (3) providing a habitat for biological activity, and (4) limiting human access to the Arctic Ocean.

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Sea Surface Temperature

Summer sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Arctic Ocean are set mainly by absorption of solar radiation into the surface layer. In the Barents and Chukchi Seas, there is an additional contribution from advection of warm water from the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, respectively. Solar warming of the ocean surface layer is influenced by the distribution of sea ice (with more solar warming in ice-free regions), cloud cover, water color, and upper-ocean stratification. River influxes influence the latter two, as well as provide an additional source of warm water. SSTs are an essential indicator of the role of the ice-albedo feedback mechanism in any given melt season: as the area of ice cover decreases, more incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the ocean and the warmer ocean in turn melts more sea ice.

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