Arctic Report Card: 2018 was the Arctic’s second-warmest year on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual report card on the Arctic this week.

It’s the 13th such report, and provides yet another stark snapshot of a rapidly warming region.

“This was the second-warmest year on record in the Arctic. … That record started in the year 1900,” said Emily Osborne, a climate scientist with NOAA.

“And to add to that, (the) last five years have been the warmest on record, again since the year 1900,” she said.

The document looks at seven big categories — the Arctic’s so-called “vital signs.” Those include things like snow cover, the condition of the Greenland ice sheet, and sea ice conditions.

Osborne said sea ice is another category that registered at notable levels this year. The summer sea ice extent on the Arctic Ocean tied for sixth-lowest this year, while the winter sea ice extent came in at second-lowest.

There were also striking changes in the ice conditions on the Bering Sea, where last winter saw record low ice extent.

“There are scientists here at the American Geophysical Union meeting where the report card was released this week talking about how they’ve been working in the Bering Sea for their entire careers — 30, 40 years — and they were never anticipating seeing conditions that they saw in 2018 in the Bering Sea in terms of temperature and ice extent,” said Osborne.

The report also included discussion of several brand new topics, like the rise of microplastic pollution in Arctic waters and harmful algal blooms, which are pushing further north as ocean waters warm.

Osborne said that the takeaway of the report card is clear: The persistent effects of warming in the Arctic are continuing to mount, driving big changes throughout the entire Arctic system.

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