Climate Change in the Arctic Environmental Changes and Threads Arctic Temperature Change
Arctic Sea Ice Retreat
Predictions for 2080
+ 7 - 12
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Thickness (meters):
1979 - 2000 Summer Sea Ice
2007 Summer Sea Ice
Size of the spring ice with a minimum thickness of 3 meters:
2012 Summer Sea Ice
+4 0 - +3
Arctic Circle 2.00 1.50 1.00 0.50 0.00
Climate Change is causing the world to warm up fast, however the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Recent years have been warmer then ever before (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF 2013). This temerature rise is the driver behind a lot of changes in the Arctic like decreasing Ice Size, Thickness and Permafrost and Arctic Greening. Details The Arctic warms up faster then the rest of the world because of a few reasons. 1: now that snow and ice is melting, dark land and sea becomes exposed which absorbs the suns radiation instead of reflecting it. 2: the depth of the atmospheric layer that has to warm in order to cause warming of near-surface air is much shallower in the Arctic than in the tropics, resulting in a larger Arctic temperature increase (ACIA, 2004). 3: the reduced summer sea ice extent allows the sea to store more solar heat which will be transferred and warm the atmosphere especially in the winter. 4: heat is transported to the Arctic by the atmosphere and oceans, changes in their circulation patterns can also increase Arctic warming (ACIA, 2004).
The Arctic summer sea ice cover is decreasing very fast and reached a new low record in 2012, 3.41 million square kilometers (NASA, 2013). Predictions are a nearly ice free summer in a few decades. (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF 2013). Also the thickness of the Ice is affected.
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness is also decreasing fast, between the 1970 and late 1990´s with 43%. It is now assumed and observed in some spots that the ice sheet can melt with up to 2 meters in thickness during a summer (Wadhams, 2010). Besides the Arctic Sea Ice, the Greenland Ice Cap is also affected by Climate Change.
The Arctic sea ice extent used to decay with 3-4% per decade since the late 20th century but since 1996 this rate has rapidly increased to 10% per decade (Wadhams, 2010). Now it´s even higher, draw the line from 1970 to 2013 and we see 12% per decade (NASA, 2013). Now that large areas get ice-free in the summer this increases the whole process since this water warms up to 4-6 degrees, which significantly slows down the forming of ice in the autumn (Wadhands, 2010). The arctic sea ice melt wont effect the sea-level much since it is located in the sea already, however it will add large amounts of water in the world´s ocean streams. This can effect these streams all around the world also eventually on lower latitudes. (Wadhands, 2010).
It is clear that there is a link between retreat and thinning of the ice sheets. Thin ice covers break more easily which will allow for more radiation absorption by the ocean, which will lead to further, increased melting (Wadhams, 2010). Snow Cover Decline The total amount of areas with snow cover have declined by 10% in the last 30 years and this is estimated to be around 10% to 20% more in 2070. (ACIA, 2004). However snowfall and snow depth will increase in general but the duration will decrease due to earlier melting in the spring (Arctic Climate Issue, 2011).
Greenland´s Ice Cap
Permafrost Areas and Change
Arctic Fish Movement
Permafrost Retreat Direction
Why do Artic Fish move more quicly when water temperature changes?
Continuous Permafrost 90 - 100%*
Fish Growth Rate %
Discontinuous Permafrost 50 - 90%* Sporadic Permafrost 10 - 50%* Number of Melting days in 2013 1500m 2000m 2500m 3000m
Greenland Summit 3207 Meter
Isolated permafrost 0 - 10%*
100+ 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Northern Fish Species
Southern Fish Species
Northern Limit of Forests (Treeline) Arctic Circle
30 - 80 km retreat in the last 35 years
130 km retreat in the last 50 years Movement direction of Atlantic COD spawning sites due to warmer waters Atlantic COD spawning areas Atlantic COD habitat before Gobal warming Atlantic COD current habitat Current Caplin spawning sites Future estimated Caplin spawning sites
Climate Change is now causing fish species to move towards the Arctic in the search for the optimal water temperatures and other features that do no longer exist southward (Reist, 2006). Invasive species like King Crab can also have increased impact on the Arctic ecosystems (Bock, 2010)
The Greenland Ice Cap has a Size of 1.7 million square kilometers. However the ice cap is decreasing in size by increasing rates. It´s ice loss is now five times higher then 20 years ago. It´s net loss was 200Gt per year in 2004 – 2008, which is 200.000.000.000 metric tons, enough to supply 1 billion people with drinking water (Arctic Climate Issue, 2011).
Details The main source for Greenland´s Ice Cap decrease are glaciers that are sliding into the sea but also surface ice melt (NASA, 2012). From 1979 to 2006 the (summer) surface ice melt on Greenland has increase by 30% with a new record in 2012 when more then 90% of the Ice cap had at least 1 melting day. In 2013 this was a little less as you can see on the map above (NSIDC, 2013). If the whole Greenland Ice Cap melts it will increase the sea level by approximately 6 meters (NSIDC, 2013).
Fish are ecotherms which means that for the main part their body temperature is determined by the waters they are in. The ideal temperature zone for Arctic fish is quite narrow. Fish will move according to this preferred optimal temperature so when the temperature is not right anymore they will move to other places where the water has the preferred specifications (Reist, 2006).
* % of land with Permafrost underneath
The Permafrost has warmed by up to 2 degrees in the last decades and the thawing layers each year, are increasing in most areas. The Permafrost boundry already has moved northward by 30 – 130 kilometers in the past 50 years (Arctic Climate Issue, 2011). It is estimated that the permafrost´s southern limits will move northward by several hundred kilometers in this century (ACIA, 2004).
Besides Fish themselves, environmental changes due to Climate Change like temperature rise can have significant impacts on organisms relevant for the fish. Examples are predators, parasites and food organisms (Reist, 2006; Bock, 2010).
Details Permafrost is Soil, rock or sediment that has been frozen for at least two years in a row. It varies in thickness from a few meters up to hundreds of meters. In the summer the toplayer will not melt for more then one meter (NISDC, 2013). Ice and snow loss in the Arctic accelerates the process of Climate Change due to the melting of the permafrost which will cause for the release of the greenhouse gas methane in the air. Methane is a 23 times more powerful greenhouse gas then CO2 (Bock, 2010).
Situation of 2003
Polar Bears Subpopulations
Predictions for 2050
Graminoid Erect Tundras Shrubs
Graminoid Erect Tundras Shrubs
Increase in Polar Bear Populations Stable Polar Bear Populations Decrease in Polar Bear Populations No Data 2012 Summer Sea Ice 2012 Spring Sea Ice
Southern Beaufort Sea
Laptev Sea Northern Beaufort Sea
Western Hudson Bay
Southern Hudson Bay
McClintock Channel Gulf of Lancaster Boothia Sound
Norwegian Bay Kara Sea
Foxe Basin Baffin Bay
Temperature rise and a loss in permafrost will cause a lot of changes in vegetation. Flora and fauna is shifting northward in the Arctic. The treeline is also visible shifting northward (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF 2013). Concequences for high north species can be that some might disappear completely (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF 2013).
Polar Bears are very vulnerable to changes in sea ice. They use sea ice to hunt, breed and travel. Climate Change, causing the decreasing sea ice will therefore greatly harm the ability of Polar Bear populations to sustain themselves (Arctic Biodiversity Trend, 2010). Details Polar bears exist in 19 subpopulations and the total number of bears lays around 20.000 – 25.000. However due to the predicted fragmentation and decline in sea ice in all subpopulation zones these numbers are likely to go down (Arctic Biodiversity Trend, 2010). Also the increasing human activity in the Arctic from shipping, tourism, resource extraction etc. will further threaten the Polar Bear due to pollution, breaking of ice, noise, defense kills and other disturbances (Arctic Biodiversity Trend, 2010). More animals threatened by the decline in Arctic Sea Ice are: ice-living seals, the walrus, and some marine birds (ACIA, 2004).
AHO - December 2013 - Tromsø References (maps): physorg.com; esa.int; arcticportal.org; nsidc.org; Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010; geomagnetism.org; Arctic Climate Impact Assessment 2004; K. F. Drinkwater (2011); J. D. Reist (2006).
Northern Findings - Ronald van Schaik References (text): nasa.gov; nsidc.org; Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010; Arctic Climate Impact Assessment 2004; J. D. Reist (2006); Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, CAFF 2013; Bock (2010); Arctic Climate Issue, 2011; Wadhams (2010).