A new NOAA-sponsored report shows that air temperature in 2015 across the Arctic was well above average with temperature anomalies over land more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average, the highest since records began in 1900. Increasing air and sea surface temperatures, decreasing sea ice extent and Greenland ice sheet mass, and changing behavior of fish and walrus are among key observations released today in the Arctic Report Card 2015.Now in its 10th year, the Arctic Report Card is a key tool to understanding changes in the Arctic and how those changes may affect communities, businesses, and people around the world,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Dr. Rick Spinrad, during a press conference today (December 15th, - Editor's note) at the annual American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. “The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the planet, which has ramifications for global security, climate, commerce, and trade. This year’s report shows the importance of international collaboration on sustained, long-term observing programs that provide insights to inform decisions by citizens, policymakers, and industry.”
Some 70 authors from 11 countries, including U.S. federal agencies and academics, contributed to this annual peer-reviewed report, guided by an editorial team from the Office of Naval Research, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, and NOAA. This year’s report features updates on key indicators, as well as new reports on the status of walrus, the northward movement of fishes, increasing river discharge into the Arctic Ocean, and the importance of community-based monitoring
What's new in 2015?
Maximum sea ice extent on 25 February was 15 days earlier than average and the lowest value on record (1979-present). Minimum ice extent in September was the 4th lowest on record. Sea ice continues to be younger and thinner: in February and March 2015 there was twice as much first-year ice as there was 30 years ago.Changes in sea ice alone are having profound effects on the marine ecosystem (fishes, walruses, primary production) andsea surface temperatures.
- Air temperatures in all seasons between October 2014 and September 2015 exceeded 3°C above average over broad areas of the Arctic, while the annual average air temperature (+1.3°) over land was the highest since 1900.
- Walruses are negatively affected by loss of sea ice habitat but positively affected by reduced hunting pressure, while sea ice loss and rising temperatures in the Barents Sea are causing a poleward shift in fish communities.
- The 2nd lowest June snow cover extent on land continued a decrease that dates back to 1979, while river discharge from the great rivers of Eurasia and North America has increased during that time.
- Melting occurred over more than 50% of the Greenland Ice Sheet for the first time since the exceptional melting of 2012, and glaciers terminating in the ocean showed an increase in ice velocity and decrease in area.
Widespread positive sea surface temperature and primary production anomalies occurred throughout the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas as sea ice retreated in summer 2015.
- Terrestrial vegetation productivity and above-ground biomass have been decreasing since 2011.