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Arctic Air Temperature Hits Record High: What It's Been Like Since 2007

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A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned about rising air and sea surface temperatures in the Arctic – with many areas over land higher than average by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit in 2015.

The Arctic region, situated on the northernmost part of the planet, consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Sweden, and Norway.

But how did the region, which is warming twice as fast as any other place on Earth, get to this point from 2007 onwards?

A look at the series of the peer-reviewed Arctic Report Card, now in its 10th year, is key. Here is a quick timeline of the air temperature changes tracked through recent years:

• 2007 – Autumn temperatures were record high of 5 degrees Celsius above normal due to the major sea ice losses that allowed further heating of the ocean. 2007 was the warmest on record for the Arctic following a general, region-wide warming trend beginning in the mid-1960s.

• 2008 – Surface air temperatures were already directly affected by ocean heating in places with extreme summer sea ice losses. The temperature reached a record +4 degrees Celsius from October to December of the year.

• 2009-2010 – 2009 exhibited a slowdown in annual air temperature rises, but the first half of the following year became near-record with monthly logs of more than 4 degrees Celsius in northern Canada. “There continues to be significant excess heat storage in the Arctic Ocean at the end of summer due to continued near-record sea ice loss,” the year’s report stated.

• 2011 – The Arctic continued to warm, with “unusually strong north and south winds in fall and winter” owing to a regional pattern. Baffin Bay or West Greenland, as well as the Bering Strait, felt warmer-than-normal temperatures by several degrees.

• 2012 – Severe weather events during this year were unusually cold late January to early February across Eurasia, such as two record storms with deep pressure and strong winds. Fall was remarkably warm over the Arctic Ocean and lands following the summer’s record sea ice loss.

• 2013 – Summer in Alaska was among the hottest on record. Compared to the previous six years, air temperatures were significantly low across the central Arctic region.

• 2014 – There were extreme monthly temperatures of +10 degrees Celsius in Alaska and -5 degrees Celsius over much of Russia and eastern North America.

• 2015 – Between October of the previous year to September 2015, the average annual air temperature over land areas was 1.3 degrees Celsius above average, the highest since observations began in 1900. It was also 3 degrees Celsius higher since the 20th century started.

The yearly report card also monitors sea ice, snow cover, Greenland ice sheet, ocean temperature and productivity, and vegetation. It analyzes the effects on marine creatures such as walruses, seabirds and polar bears, and on land wildlife and vegetation.

NOAA Chief Scientist Dr. Rick Spinrad stressed global coordination in this year’s findings.

“This year’s report shows the importance of international collaboration on sustained, long-term observing programs that provide insights to inform decisions by citizens, policymakers, and industry,” he said.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr

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