Another warmest year raises fears of Arctic

Photo: AFP

AFP: The Arctic has experienced its second warmest year since 1900, according to a report published Tuesday, raising fears over low summer sea ice and rising sea levels.

The North Pole has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet since the 1990s, a phenomenon climatologists call Arctic amplification, and the past six years have been the region’s warmest ever.

The average temperature in the 12 months to September was 1.9 degrees Celsius higher than the 1981-2010 average, according to the Arctic Report Card of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA).

The end-of-summer sea ice cover measured that month was the second lowest in the 41-year satellite record, tied with 2007 and 2016, the annual report said.

“2007 was a watershed year,” Don Perovich, a Dartmouth engineering professor who co-authored the report, told AFP.

“Some years there’s an increase, some years there’s a decrease, but we’ve never returned to the levels we saw before 2007,” he added.

The year up to September has been surpassed only by the equivalent period in 2015-16 — the warmest since 1900, when records began.

In the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska, the last two winters have seen maximum sea ice coverage of less than half the long-term average.

The ice is also thinner, meaning airplanes can no longer land with supplies for the residents of Diomede, a small island in the Bering Strait, who now depend on less reliable helicopters.