National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published its 15th Arctic Report Card that has been issued annually for the past 15 years. The report card is compiled by 133 scientists from 15 countries based on compilation of original, peer-reviewed environmental observations and analyses of the Arctic and its weather, climate, oceanic and land conditions.
From the NOAA website: "The Arctic Report Card is organized into three sections: Vital Signs provides annual updates on seven topics: Surface Air Temperature; Terrestrial Snow Cover; Greenland Ice Sheet; Sea Ice; Sea Surface Temperature; Arctic Ocean Primary Productivity; and Tundra Greenness. Other Indicators explore topics that are updated periodically. Frostbites reports on new and emerging issues, and topics that relate to long-term scientific observations in the Arctic."
Some of this year’s significant findings include:
- The average annual land-surface air temperature in the Arctic measured between October 2019 and September 2020 was the second-warmest since record-keeping began in 1900, and was responsible for driving a cascade of impacts across Arctic ecosystems during the year. Nine of the past 10 years saw air temperatures at least 1 degree C above (2.2 degrees F) the 1981-2010 mean. Arctic temperatures for the past six years have all exceeded previous records.
- Extremely high temperatures across Siberia during spring 2020 resulted in the lowest June snow extent across the Eurasian Arctic observed in the past 54 years.
- The 2020 Arctic minimum sea ice extent reached in September was the second-lowest in the satellite record. Overall thickness of the sea ice cover is also decreasing as Arctic ice has transformed from an older, thicker, and stronger ice mass to a younger, thinner more fragile ice mass in the past decade.
- The MOSAiC Expedition, the yearlong expedition based from the Polarstern icebreaker in the central Arctic Ocean, drifted much faster than anticipated through thinner ice than expected, experiencing sea ice dynamics that complicated the scientific mission.
- Extreme wildfires in the Sakha Republic of northern Russia during 2020 coincided with unparalleled warm air temperatures and record snow loss in the region.
- Pacific Arctic bowhead whales have rebounded in the past 30 years, due to increases in both local plankton blooms and transport of increased krill and other food sources northward through the Bering Strait, a signal of long-term warming in the Arctic Ocean.
To read the full 2020 Arctic Report Card and to watch the highlight video.