Each year, the Arctic region goes through an annual health checkup — and the results are in: From a rapid decline in snow cover to an unprecedented late season melting event to another year of seabird die-offs, the Arctic has once again shown clear symptoms of an ailing planet.
A report published Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that this vast and significant northern biome is dramatically shifting, with snow cover declining at an alarming rate of about 20% per decade. It continues to warm four times faster than the rest of Earth, with the last seven years being the warmest on record, according to the report.
Authored by more than 140 scientists around the globe, the Arctic Report Card examined the region’s “vital signs” between October 2021 and September 2022, including changes in snow cover, sea ice volume, air and ocean temperatures, as well as a new pulse-check on precipitation events.
The report describes an increase in commercial activities and vessels venturing deeper into the Arctic on sea routes opened up by melting ice. These ships increase noise pollution in the region, altering its soundscape and interfering with the ability of marine mammals to communicate.
Changes in the Arctic also threaten the lives of people living in the region, particularly Indigenous communities who have long relied on the region’s typically frozen landscape
The report “demonstrates that we are seeing many of the most intense impacts of climate change first in the Arctic,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad told CNN. “I can’t overstate this but rapid warming in the Arctic is profoundly affecting more than 400,000 Indigenous people who live there, and in many instances is upending their entire way of life.”
While the Arctic might seem remote, what happens in this region is a bellwether for the global climate — and the report makes clear that its impacts are …