Earth & Conservation

Warming Temperatures and Melting Ice Have Become the ‘New Normal’ in the Arctic

Sea ice around the North Pole fell to the smallest extent on record, and Arctic temperatures were the second highest ever recorded, according to an annual report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ice floes off the coastline of Spitsbergen | Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ice floes off the coastline of Spitsbergen | Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

An increasingly warm Arctic, where temperatures rise twice as fast as the rest of the planet and ice melts at an alarming pace is the "new normal," warned a global scientific report Tuesday.

In 2017, winter sea ice around the Earth's northern pole cover fell to the smallest extent on record, said the Arctic Report Card, released annually by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The year was the second warmest in modern times for the fragile Arctic, said the peer-reviewed report compiled by 85 scientists from 12 nations.

"The magnitude and pace of the 21st century sea ice and surface ocean warming decline is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and likely much longer," said the report. "There are many strong signals that continue to indicate the Arctic environmental system has reached a 'new normal.'"

The consequences of this continued warming are dire — harming valuable fisheries in the eastern Bering Sea, compromising roads, homes, and infrastructure due to permafrost thaw and risking increasing wildfires at high altitudes, said the report.

Even though fewer heat records were shattered than in 2016, the "Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago," it said. "Arctic temperatures continue to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase."

Scientists released the Arctic Report Card, now in its 12th year, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

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