The report also mentions an increase in commercial activities, as well as ships that are venturing further into Arctic waters on routes open to them by melting ice. They bring more trash and noise to the area, changing its soundscape and interfering in marine mammals’ communication.
The loss of life, economy and infrastructure is also possible due to retreating glaciers or melting permafrost.
“If you realize that the Arctic is the gateway to climate changes, and that we need some way of taking a regular pulse-check on how things are in that critical region, the report card represents, as you will, a little snapshot,” Richard Spinrad, NOAA Administrator, told CNN.
He explained that it was important because it is similar to going to the doctor for an annual physical. “You want to have a consistent, comparable set.
It all connects
Sea levels rise when the Greenland ice sheets melts. This can have a strong impact on coastal areas and other low-lying islands in the Pacific Islands. These impacts can result in coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion in freshwater resources, and disruptions of sewer and water systems.
The Arctic’s melting permafrost also releases more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, further increasing the planet’s warming.
Moon said that the Arctic report card for this year shows how connected we are to the environmental changes taking place around the world and how these cascading disruptions may influence other parts.
“We now live in a time fundamentally different than the past and will continue to experience ongoing change into the future.”
The year studied was seventh warmest in Arctic history, but the period between October and December 2020 was the warmest. The Arctic continues its upward trend in warming, more than twice that of the rest.
Ships, beavers, and permafrost dangers
The NOAA report card also revealed, using satellite images and other data that North American beavers are occupying the Arctic tundra of Alaska. This has doubled their ponds over the past two decades. Scientists are also mapping beaver lakes in Canada and Asia.
The increasing shipping traffic to the Arctic is due to both the shrinking sea ice and the shifting marine habitats. According to the report, increasing human activity is causing a dramatic change in the marine soundscape.
Spinrad explained to CNN that if one of your lights flickers in your home, it could be a problem with the electricity.
“But if you notice that all the lights are flickering and the air conditioning isn’t working, and there are leaks in the water pipes, you’d think we have a serious issue with the whole home, not just a few incidents.”
Spinrad stated that the Arctic is fundamentally different than the one it has known for centuries or even decades. It’s the accumulation of a warmer, wetter, less-icy, greener, and more diverse Arctic.
The report revealed that as the planet warms, retreating glaciers, and thawing Permafrost are already threatening five million people who live in the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost area. This creates a cascading effect on economies, infrastructure, national security, and the well-being of Arctic communities.
Glacial retreat can also expose steep slopes that are already difficult to destabilize. This, in the presence of deep waters, can lead to landslide-fueled tsunamis or flooding, which could potentially lead to death, the report states.
The report has seen an increase in tundra greenness over the last year. However, recent extremes and other local influences like wildfires and melting permafrost may be causing the landscape to turn browner.
Moon stated that the entire world is feeling the effects of the climate crisis and that people should be able empathize with the Arctic communities.
Moon stated that the Arctic people are also experiencing extreme events and conditions they have never seen or had to deal with before.
“So on a very personal scale, we find ourselves in a new world that has fundamentally changed from the environmental conditions of the past many decades or centuries.”