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Water Today Title March 20, 2018

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Update 2017/4/27


By Cori Marshall

The 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting will be held next month in Fairbanks Alaska. In the run up to that meeting the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) held the International Conference on Arctic Science: Bringing Knowledge to Action, in Reston Virginia.

The event brought together members of the Arctic Council's six working groups, Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, Emergency Prevention, Preparedness Response (EPPR), Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), and of course AMAP.

The centerpiece of the conference was the massive release of findings in a number of reports on the state of the Arctic environment. One of these reports was the 2017 Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) Assessment. The assessment was conducted over a seven-year period from 2010 to 2016. To back up their findings the SWIPA Assessment states that "more than 90 scientists contributed, [and that the study] was peer-reviewed by 28 experts in a rigorous quality control process."

Overall the report finds that the "Arctic's climate is shifting to a new state." The findings point to augmented "concentrations of greenhouse gases [as the driver of] widespread changes in the Arctic's sensitive climate." An example of this is that sea ice thickness and extent continue to decease.

James Overland of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been going to the Arctic for nearly a half century. Overland stated that the area "does not resemble the area that he first visited," decades ago. Overland added that the short-term effects on the region will be "over the next two decades the Arctic will continue to see visible changes." The Arctic will see continued "loss of sea ice, warming ground temperatures, [and] unstable ground."

The findings suggest that the "Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in summer as early as the late 2030s," this is decades ahead of previous predictions.

The assessment spoke of the recognition of additional melt processes that have an impact on glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The assessment pointed to the possibility of the "low-end projections of global sea-level rise [being] underestimated."

There may be evidence that the changes affecting the Arctic climate, wildlife and people, are having an impact elsewhere on the globe. The report stated that the "changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather in mid-latitudes, even influencing the Southeast Asian monsoon."

According to Overland "warming in the Arctic can modify the track of the Jet Stream." NOAA defines the jet stream as "narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere," which generally follow the boundaries of hot and cold air. Overland added that "a more north south extent of the Jet Stream can bring more warm air to the north and cold air toward the south."

The effects of greenhouse gas concentration and climate change are affecting the planet. The effects are more pronounced in the Arctic. The report stated that "Arctic temperatures are rising faster than the global average [and] has been warming twice as rapidly as the world as a whole for the past 50 years."

The temperatures in the Arctic will rise "4-5 degrees above late 20th century values," of current models are correct, and this will happen by 2050. The predicted changes are more than two times that of those projected for the Northern Hemisphere.

The report underlines that these changes will happen, they "are locked into the climate system by past emissions and ocean heat storage." the report goes as far as saying that they "would still occur even if the world were to make drastic near-term cuts in emissions."

Join us tomorrow as we look at the finding on Chemicals of Emerging Arctic Concern.

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