Saturday, December 3, 2011

Arctic Growing Warmer and Greener

An international team of scientists has found that persistent warming has caused dramatic changes in the Arctic Ocean and the ecosystem it supports, a shift that has caused changes in both land and sea life.

It is entering a new state -- one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry, said the team of 121 scientists from 14 different countries, who monitor the rapid changes in the Earth's northern polar region.

"This shift is also causing changes in the region's life, both on land and in the sea, including less habitat for polar bears and walruses, but increased access to feeding areas for whales," they said in their annual 'Arctic Report Card'.

According to the report, the average annual near-surface air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean in 2011 were approximately 1.5C greater than the 1981-2010 baseline period.

"Minimum Arctic sea ice area in September 2011 was the second lowest recorded by satellite since 1979," it said.

"Arctic tundra vegetation continues to increase and is associated with higher air temperatures over most of the Arctic land mass."

Commenting on the findings, Monica Medina of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said this report "concludes that the Arctic region continues to warm, with less sea ice and greater green vegetation".

"With a greener and warmer Arctic, more development is likely," she said in a statement.

"Reports like this one help us to prepare for increasing demands on Arctic resources so that better decisions can be made about how to manage and protect these more valuable and increasingly available resources," she added.

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