Findings presented in a new federal report indicate that the Arctic region is heating up twice as quickly as the rest of the world.
It is a case when warming can have a chilling effect. The revelation that the Earth’s arctic region is still heating up faster than the rest of the planet has climate experts concerned, not just about ice loss but the decline in polar bear numbers also. The bad news is part of a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s annual Arctic Report Card, a kind of health assessment for the North Pole written by over 60 scientists.
According to the report, last year’s Arctic temperatures were 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit higher than what the organization considers normal. Records indicate that unusually warm years for the Arctic like 2014 have been more frequent in the past decade than in previous decades. Meanwhile, the rate of warming for the rest of the planet has slowed.
For 2014, measurements indicate that the Greenland Ice Sheet’s heat-deflecting profile dropped, Eurasia’s spring snow cover fell to record lows, polar summer sea ice was below-average, and some polar bear numbers have dropped. The findings are consistent with what climate experts call a “persistent warming” trend for the Arctic over the past 30 years.
Experts explain that the Arctic may be warming faster than other parts of the planet because of the loss of the heat-reflecting characteristics of polar ice and snow. As these reflective surfaces dwindle, darker surfaces become more prevalent, surfaces that absorb more light and heat from the sun. The retained heat then fuels the loss of more reflective surfaces in, resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle.
The polar bear population in the Hudson Bay, Canada, took a hit from the loss of floating ice, which the species uses to get around for hunting and breeding. The number of females fell to 806 from 1,194 between the years 1987 and 2011. However, another region exhibited a rise in polar bears, with a stabilized population of about 900 marking a recover after a substantial decline observed 10 years earlier.