Aug 11, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Arctic is warming four times faster than rest of globe, new study says

The Svalbard Islands, in Norway, viewed through a porthole of a ship in the Arctic Ocean in July 2022.
The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard viewed through a porthole of a ship in the Arctic Ocean in July 2022. Photo: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Human-caused climate change has been warming the Arctic nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979, researchers in Finland said in a new study released Thursday in the journal Communications Earth and Environment.

Why it matters: The study indicates that the polar region is warming faster than scientists previously estimated in other studies, which have previously said that the Arctic was warming either twice, more than twice or three times as fast as the planet on average.

  • The study also estimates that other parts of the Arctic — such as sea areas near Novaya Zemlya, Russia, and the Barents Sea north of Norway — are warming seven times as fast as the global average.

What they're saying: "We present evidence that during 1979–2021 the Arctic has been warming nearly four times as fast as the entire globe," the study stated.

  • "Thus, we caution that referring to Arctic warming as to being twice as fast as the global warming, as frequently stated in literature, is a clear underestimation of the situation during the last 43 years since the start of the satellite observations."

Thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: Arctic climate change affects the entire world by altering the temperature difference between the tropics and the pole.

  • This can tip the scale toward more extreme weather events from a slowing summertime jet stream. The loss of sea ice induces a positive climate feedback that in turn warms the region even more rapidly, and can speed the melt of land-based ice sheets as well.
  • Scientists study the region closely because what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The region's permafrost stores vast amounts of greenhouse gases that, if released, would significantly speed and sharply escalate the amount of global warming. This is considered one of many tipping points in the climate system.

The big picture: Other scientists have observed record melt seasons from glaciers in parts of the Arctic this year, such as on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

Go deeper: Greenland ice melt kicks into high gear

Go deeper