4 crazy things that are happening in the Arctic right now

iceland

Jökulsárlón, Iceland (Mahkeo, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Writer, Formative Content


A number of unusual events are sweeping across the Arctic as global warming disrupts weather patterns, the landscape, and the way of life in the icy wilderness.

Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 1°C since the 1880s, driven largely by man-made greenhouse gases. And the world keeps on warming: the past five years have, collectively, been the hottest on record, according to NASA figures.

The Arctic is feeling the effects more than anywhere on Earth. While this is providing scientists with a wealth of information to help in their fight against climate change, it’s also having some strange consequences.

Here are four ways our warming world is affecting the region.

1) Starving polar bears are travelling vast distances to Russian cities

Residents of Norilsk, a small industrial city in northern Russia, were greeted by the sight of an emaciated polar bear stumbling through the streets. According to the Siberian Times, the exhausted animal is thought to have travelled up to 1,500km from the Arctic Ocean, crossing the vast Taymyr Peninsula into Russia to find food.

The last time a polar bear made this epic journey was in 1977, when it was shot by authorities to protect local residents. But the latest visitor will likely be sedated and returned home or housed in a zoo.

Maximum Arctic sea ice extent 2018-2019.

Maximum Arctic sea ice extent 2018-2019.
Image: Statista
As the above chart shows, maximum Arctic sea ice reached 14.78 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean surface in March 2019, the seventh lowest on satellite record.

Arctic sea ice provides a natural hunting ground for polar bears and also contains an algae essential to their diet – comprising up to 70% of their total food intake in some cases. Over the past two decades, the sea ice has been shrinking faster each year, leaving the animals hungry. There is little to eat in the summer months, forcing the starving bears to venture further afield to survive.

2) Wildfires are choking Alaska

The Aggie Creek Fire is located 30 miles northwest of Fairbanks, AK started by a lightning strike on Jun. 22, 2015 has consumed an estimated 31,705 acres.  USFS photo.

Image: USDA – Flickr
For the first time in almost 100 years, Alaska is experiencing average July-to-June temperatures above freezing. The unseasonable heat is thawing and drying vast tracts of the far-northern snow forests, leaving the tundra susceptible to wildfires, which ravage the land.

The changing climate is also responsible for a growing number of thunderstorms, with lightning strikes sparking many blazes. So far in 2019, more than 60 large fires have swept across Alaska – more than any other US state.

Satellite monitoring shows blazes starting earlier in the year, spreading further north into the Arctic region and burning with increased intensity, in line with predictions from climate change models. Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told Inside Climate Change: “When it comes to the Arctic heatwaves, the wildfires, am I surprised? No – this was long predicted. Am I worried? Yes.”

3) Permafrost is melting 70 years ahead of schedule

A recent Arctic expedition found alarming rates of decline in Arctic permafrost, which is melting far faster than scientists had predicted.

The growing intensity of summer temperatures across the region is destabilizing giant subterranean ice blocks that have remained frozen for millennia. Rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, further exacerbating the rise in the atmosphere’s temperature.

“What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and one of the expedition’s researchers, told Reuters. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any other time in the last 5,000 or more years.”

 

4) A heatwave has hit the most northerly inhabited spot on the planet

Personnel stationed at a military base in Alert, Canada, have experienced the unlikely event of an Arctic heatwave. The settlement, also home to a weather station, has the distinction of being the northernmost permanently inhabited place on Earth.

This year’s summer temperatures have reached a record 21°C, far exceeding the region’s average July temperature highs of 6°C.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist at the Canadian environment ministry, puts the heatwave down to an unusual high pressure front over Greenland, which feeds southerly winds on the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic is heating up three times faster than other parts of the planet, he told AFP, emphasising the urgent need for drastic action to reduce carbon emissions.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Sassoli: Migration agreement respects fundamental principles of Parliament’s proposal

Guterres: Security Council’s African alliances ‘needed and appreciated more than ever’

Cash-strapped cities must look to private partners

MWC 2016 LIVE: Industry looks to reduce mobile gender gap

Is our brave new world about to burst?

FROM THE FIELD: ‘Harvested’ rainwater saves Tanzanian students from stomach ulcers, typhoid

MEPs spell out priorities for the European Central Bank and on banking union

Yemen: Major UN aid boost for ‘up to 14 million’ as country risks becoming a land of ‘living ghosts’

Towards a European Republic

How technology can help India breathe more easily

Davos participants call for digital trade deal

On flight to sustainable development, ‘leave no country behind’, urges aviation agency

Varna (Bulgaria) awarded European Youth Capital 2017

The dangers of data: why the numbers never tell the full story

Indonesia is buzzing with entrepreneurial spirit. And others in ASEAN aren’t far behind

An Eastern Wind

5 lessons from China on how to drive sustainable growth

We have a chance to build the gender-equal workplaces of the future. Here’s how

European Labour Authority ready to start working in October as decision is taken on new seat

A Monday to watch the final act of a Greek tragedy; will there be catharsis or more fear?

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

CDU-SPD agree the terms for EU’s Banking Union

The DNA of the future retail CEO

Could a Digital Silk Road solve the Belt and Road’s sustainability problem?

Ebola in DR Congo: UN chief ‘outraged’ by recent killings of civilians and health workers

How can batteries become more sustainable? This young scientist might have the answer

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

3 of Jack Ma’s best pieces of advice

Mobile 360 Africa 11-13 July 2017

Brexit kick-off: a historic day for the EU anticlockwise

Guterres underlines climate action urgency, as UN weather agency confirms record global warming

Why the answer to a more sustainable future could lie within the platform economy

Pedal power makes ‘positive impact on climate’, urges UN on World Bicycle Day

China’s lead in the global solar race – at a glance

The Chinese retail revolution is heading west

Erdogan’s electoral win on a ‘me or chaos’ dilemma means trouble for everybody

This brewery is ditching plastic six-pack rings to save marine life

Investing in rural women and girls, ‘essential’ for everyone’s future: UN chief

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

Easing funding woes for UN agency assisting Palestine refugees a ‘wise investment for today and the future’

High unemployment to continue haunting the EU

A young European voice on Grexit: too high a bill and too big a deal!

JADE visits Lithuanian Junior Initiatives

The power of digital tools to transform mental healthcare

Libyan national conference postponed, nearly 500,000 children at ‘direct risk’ from fighting around Tripoli

From social entrepreneurship to systems entrepreneurship: how to create lasting change

Would you let an AI vote for you?

It’s ‘time for concrete action’ says UN chief, welcoming inter-Korean agreement

To my Chinese friend

Austrian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

Do we have to choose between creating jobs and protecting the climate?

5 ways students can graduate fully qualified for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

India is investing more money in solar power than coal for first time

A refugee from Syria cries out: “I’m not just a number!”

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

Camino de Santiago – a global community on our doorstep

Four ways Europe can become a global innovation leader

Three steps to clean up electric vehicle supply chains

A giant marine heatwave has descended on Alaska

Haiti: ‘Laden with challenges’ but also hope, Mission chief tells Security Council

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s