The Arctic Circle region has warmed at a rate four times faster than the rest of the planet in the past 40 years, according to a report released Thursday.
Until now it was believed that this rate was between two and three times higher, but according to this study, published by the scientific portal Communications Earth & Environment, the phenomenon has been accelerating.
That had been the conclusion of the group of UN climate experts (IPCC) in its last report of 2019.
The icy surface of the Arctic region partly reflects the sun’s rays (the albedo effect), but with this accelerated warming, caused by climate change, the ice is melting.
Melting ice absorbs heat, instead of bouncing it back. And the excess water (coming from the continental and insular regions of the polar circle) goes to the oceanic mass.
A team of experts in Norway and Finland analyzed temperature data collected via satellite since 1979 over the region.
The Arctic has been warming by an average of 0.75ºC every decade, four times more than the rest of the planet, say these scientists in the study published on the scientific portal Communications Earth & Environment.
“Until now the belief was that the Arctic was warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet, so I was a bit surprised when our figure appeared much higher,” Antti Lipponen, co-author of the study and member of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
There are divergent views in the scientific community about the exact limits of the region, which includes the Arctic Ocean and the continental landmass, and about the periods that are taken as the basis of study.
The data published on the website shows significant regional variations within the Arctic Circle.
The Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean, near the Svalbard (Norway) and Nova Zembla (Russia) archipelagos, has warmed up to 1.25º C per decade, seven times more than the rest of the world.
The most advanced models until now predicted a warming a third less than what was detected.
These climate prediction models in the region have been evolving, the scientists explained.
“Maybe the next step is to re-analyze those models. I’d like to know why the models don’t reproduce what we’ve observed and what impact that has on future projections,” Lipponen said.
The warming of the Arctic region has a profound impact on local communities and wildlife such as polar bears.
The melting in Greenland is approaching a point of no return, according to some studies. That frozen mass contains enough water to raise sea levels by up to six meters across the planet.
“Climate change is caused by humans. As the Arctic warms, its glaciers will melt and that will affect sea levels globally,” Lipponen explained.
“Something is happening in the Arctic and it will affect us all,” he added.
According to the IPCC, the sea level has risen 20 cm since 1900 and the phenomenon has been accelerating since the 1990s.
Climate change has already caused an increase in the planet’s average temperature of 1.1º C compared to the pre-industrial era.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement adopted during COP21 aimed to limit global warming to 1.5C compared to the pre-industrial era.
However, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the rise in temperatures is on track to be between 2.5 and 3 degrees.