The warming Arctic reveals shifting seasons, widespread disturbances, and the value of diverse observations
Shifting seasons and climate-driven disturbances, such as wildfires, extreme weather, and unusual wildlife mortality events, are becoming increasingly difficult to assess within the context of what has been previously considered normal.
- The average surface air temperature over the Arctic for this past year (October 2021-September 2022) was the 6th warmest since 1900. The last seven years are collectively the warmest seven years on record.
- Low pressure across the Alaska Arctic and northern Canada sustained warm summer temperatures over the Beaufort Sea and Canadian Archipelago.
- The Arctic continues to warm more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe, with even greater warming in some locations and times of year.
In the oceans
- 2022 Arctic sea ice extent was similar to 2021 and well below the long-term average.
- August 2022 mean sea surface temperatures continued to show warming trends for 1982-2022 in most ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean. SSTs in the Chukchi Sea were anomalously cool in August 2022.
- Most regions of the Arctic continued to show increased ocean plankton blooms, or ocean primary productivity, over the 2003-22 period, with the greatest increases in the Eurasian Arctic and Barents Sea.
- Satellite records from 2009 to 2018 show increasing maritime ship traffic in the Arctic as sea ice declines. The most significant increases in maritime traffic are occurring from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait and Beaufort Sea.
- NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland mission used cutting-edge technology to demonstrate that rising ocean temperatures along Greenland’s continental shelf are contributing to ice loss through melting glaciers at the ice sheet’s margins.
On the land
- June 2022 terrestrial snow cover was unusually low over both the North American (2nd lowest in the 56-year record) and Eurasian Arctic (3rd lowest in the record). Winter accumulation was above average, but early snow melt in a warming Arctic contributed to the overall low snow cover.
- A significant increase in Arctic precipitation since the 1950s is now detectable across all seasons. Wetter-than-normal conditions were observed from October 2021 through September 2022, in what was the 3rd wettest year of the past 72 years.
- The Greenland Ice Sheet experienced its 25th consecutive year of ice loss. In September 2022, unprecedented late-season warming created surface melt conditions over 36% of the ice sheet, including at the 10,500 ft ice sheet summit.
- Tundra greening declined from the record high values of the previous two years, with high productivity in most of the North American Arctic, but unusually low productivity in northeastern Siberia. Wildfires, extreme weather events, and other disturbances have become more frequent, influencing the variability of tundra greenness.
- Striking differences were observed between lake ice durations in Eurasia and North America, with substantially longer than average ice durations in Eurasia and predominantly shorter in North America. Freeze-up of Arctic lakes is occurring later in most of North America, especially in Canada.
- The distribution, conservation status, and ecology of most Arctic pollinators are poorly known though these insects are critically important to Arctic ecosystems and the food systems of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and Arctic residents. Coordinated long-term monitoring, increased funding, and emerging technologies can improve our understanding of Arctic pollinator habitats and status, and inform effective conservation strategies.
- In 2022, despite an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza affecting birds throughout North America and variable spring weather conditions, the population sizes of most Arctic geese remained high with increasing or stable trends. Multiple geese species provide food and cultural significance for many peoples.
- In contrast, communities in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Sea region reported higher-than-expected seabird die-offs for the sixth consecutive year. Tracking the duration, geographic extent, and magnitude of seabird bird die-offs across Alaska’s expansive and remote coastline is only possible through well-coordinated communication and a dedicated network of Tribal, State, and Federal partners.
Consequences of rapid Arctic environmental change for people
- People experience the consequences of a rapidly changing Arctic as the combined effects of physical conditions, responses of biological resources, impacts on infrastructure, decisions influencing adaptive capacities, and environmental and international influences on economics and well-being.
- Living and innovating in Arctic environments over millennia, Indigenous Peoples have evolved holistic knowledge providing resilience and sustainability. Indigenous expertise is augmented by scientific abilities to reconstruct past environments and to model and predict future changes. Decision makers (from communities to governments) have the skills necessary to apply this experience and knowledge to help mitigate and adapt to a rapidly changing Arctic.
- Addressing unprecedented Arctic environmental changes requires listening to one another, aligning values, and collaborating across knowledge systems, disciplines, and sectors of society.