The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, study finds

The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the Earth’s average – up to twice as fast as previously described, according to a new study.

The researchers analyzed several datasets like Nasa and the office met on Arctic Circle temperatures between 1979 and 2021.

They found that much of the Arctic Ocean had warmed at a rate of 0.75°C (1.35°F) per decade over this period, nearly four times faster than the world average.

Previous studies report that the Arctic is warming on average two, more than two or three times faster than the globe.

These estimates have generally been reported in the literature and in the media, but they are “significant underestimates” even though they are based on “state-of-the-art” computer models, according to the authors.

Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than in the rest of the world, largely due to loss of sea ice.

When the shiny, reflective ice melts, it gives way to a darker ocean. This amplifies the warming trend because the surface of the ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than the surface of snow and ice.

The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, a new study reveals. Pictured is melting sea ice in calm northern Arctic waters

Researchers analyzed observational datasets from NASA (Gistemp) and the Met Office (HadCRUT5) of Arctic Circle temperatures between 1979 and 2021. This graph shows the evolution of the annual average temperature in the Arctic (bright colors) and worldwide (pale colors).  Temperatures were calculated relative to the 1981-2010 average

Researchers analyzed observational datasets from NASA (Gistemp) and the Met Office (HadCRUT5) of Arctic Circle temperatures between 1979 and 2021. This graph shows the evolution of the annual average temperature in the Arctic (bright colors) and worldwide (pale colors). Temperatures were calculated relative to the 1981-2010 average

Why is the Arctic warmer?

As early as 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius hypothesized that changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere could alter surface temperatures.

He also suggested that the changes would be particularly large at high latitudes, more so than in the tropics.

In recent decades, warming has been strongest in the Arctic – referred to as “Arctic amplification”.

Finnish researchers now claim that Arctic amplification is more extreme than previously reported.

In 43 years, the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the average for the entire globe.

Source: NASA

In recent decades, warming has been strongest in the Arctic – a phenomenon called “Arctic amplification”.

The magnitude of Arctic amplification is affected by both human-caused climate change and long-term natural variations in climate.

According to the study, these two factors likely led to an increase in amplification over the past 43 years.

The new study was conducted by researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and published in the journal Earth & Environment Communications.

“Over the past few decades, the Arctic has been warming much faster than the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification,” they state.

“Many studies report that the Arctic is warming on average two, more than two or even three times faster than the globe.

“We show here, using multiple observational datasets that span the Arctic region, that over the past 43 years the Arctic has warmed almost four times faster than the globe, which is a ratio higher than that generally reported in the literature.”

For the study, the team compared observational data from a range of climate datasets, including HadCRUT5 from the Met Office, Gistemp from NASA and Berkeley Earth form the non-profit organization of the same name.

Previous studies report that the Arctic is warming twice, more than two or three times faster than the globe on average, but these are underestimates, researchers say (file photo)

Previous studies report that the Arctic is warming twice, more than two or three times faster than the globe on average, but these are underestimates, researchers say (file photo)

The annual mean temperature trend for 1979-2021 (left) and the annual mean temperature trend relative to the global mean (Arctic amplification, right)

The annual mean temperature trend for 1979-2021 (left) and the annual mean temperature trend relative to the global mean (Arctic amplification, right)

Although where the Arctic begins and ends is debated, the team defined the Arctic region as the area inside the Arctic Circle.

Meanwhile, the rate of warming was calculated from 1979, when more detailed satellite observations became available.

“The Arctic was defined using the Arctic Circle because we wanted to use an area that most people perceive as the Arctic,” said study author Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

“We focused on a period that began in 1979 because observations after that year are more reliable and because the strong warming began in the 1970s.”

The researchers found that the warming of the Arctic was four times higher than the global average, but even stronger at the local level.

For example, in the Barents Sea area between the archipelagos of Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya, it was seven times higher than the world average.

A map of the Arctic, with the Arctic Circle - an area most people perceive as the Arctic - in blue.  Also circled is the Barents Sea area, where warming has been seven times the global average

A map of the Arctic, with the Arctic Circle – an area most people perceive as the Arctic – in blue. Also circled is the Barents Sea area, where warming has been seven times the global average

Pictured is a polar bear on the melting sea ice in the Arctic Sea.  Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world, largely due to loss of sea ice (file photo)

Pictured is a polar bear on the melting sea ice in the Arctic Sea. Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world, largely due to loss of sea ice (file photo)

The study also showed that climate models struggle to simulate the quadruple rate of warming in the Arctic region.

This could mean that climate models are systematically underestimating Arctic amplification, or that the current warming situation is simply considered too unlikely an event for a computer model.

The team admits that the magnitude of Arctic amplification depends on how the Arctic region is defined and the time period studied.

However, climate models have been found to underestimate Arctic amplification almost independently of this, they report.

“Our findings call for more detailed investigation of the mechanisms behind AA [Arctic amplification] and their representation in climate models,” the team concludes.

ARCTIC ICE FOUNDATION COULD OPEN NEW ECO-FRIENDLY SAILING ROUTES

From the outbreak of forest fires to the melting of glaciers, the negative effects of climate change are well documented, but a new study suggests there may be at least one positive.

The researchers say that in just two decades, parts of the Arctic that were once ice-covered year-round will be reliably ice-free for months due to global warming.

The result could be shorter, more environmentally friendly maritime trade routes that bypass the Russian-controlled Northern Sea Route.

It would reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry and weaken Russia’s control over trade routes through the Arctic, they say.

Examples of routes through the Arctic that will be made more navigable by melting ice include the Transpolar Sea Route and the Northwest Passage.