A new report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that Arctic permafrost is thawing at a faster rate than at any time in the last 1,500 years. Despite slightly lower levels of warming than in 2016, the arctic region is still warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world, reaching levels never before seen in the modern era, according to the Associated Press, via the Guardian. The results of the study were presented to the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.
According to Jeremy Mathis, who is one of the co-authors of the study, and head of the NOAA’s Arctic research program:
“2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago.”
NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet explained:
“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet. The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”
Data on permafrost is normally delayed by about a year, unlike other readings. The report showed that the frozen areas in the Arctic on which buildings, roads, and pipelines have been built reached temperatures up to and past the thawing point last year. This could lead to problems if the ground later melts and shifts, according to the report.
Arctic sea ice reliably recedes in September, and this year’s September was only the 8th lowest recorded. However, researchers are most worried by sea ice maximum levels in March, when it should be reaching its highest levels annually. Levels in that season were the lowest of any year in records which go back to 1979. It is the third year in a row that this record was set.
Now, almost 80 percent of Arctic ice is thin and just one year old. In 1985, almost half the ice was older and thicker, according to the NOAA’s Emily Osborne.
Using ice cores, corals, fossils, and shells, researchers have painted a picture of the Arctic’s past that shows the current levels of rising temperatures and plummeting sea ice are unmatched in the last 1,500 years. According to the report, these changes correspond to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Changes in the Arctic are likely to affect the rest of the world as well, linked to changes in the fish supply, and shifts in the jet stream that can affect weather patterns in the US. Already, according to the NOAA’s James Overland and meteorologist Judah Cohen, changes in the Arctic are thought to have played a role in increased wildfires in California and cold snaps in the eastern US.