March 8, 2019
The Arctic is warming more than twice as quickly as the rest of the planet, triggering disruptions in the climate everywhere on Earth. By looking at the Arctic as a system of interacting forces, a new commentary in Earth’s Future, co-authored by NAU researchers Christina Schädel and Ted Schuur of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), argues we can better measure and address those planet-wide impacts and risks.
Permafrost thaw, sea ice and land ice are often discussed as separate elements in the warming Arctic. But because Arctic changes have impacts at all latitudes—including warming global temperatures, coastal erosion, a rise in sea levels and perhaps even more extreme storms and drought caused by a ‘wavier’ jet stream—the authors suggest that people need to account for the way these Arctic elements influence and feed off one another. For instance, the rapid sea ice loss researchers have recorded in the Arctic can increase temperatures over land, accelerating permafrost thaw, which contributes to higher global atmospheric temperatures. Those increased temperatures further accelerate land and sea ice loss.
“We need to look at all aspects together to get a system-wide understanding,” Schädel said. She and other authors are members of SEARCH, or Study of Environmental Arctic Change, a U.S.-based group that works together to synthesize and communicate the consequences of rapid Arctic change.
“Since the Arctic cryosphere is highly interconnected and changes there have far-reaching consequences in other geographies,” the authors write, “thoughtful actions are needed, including constructive social activism, informed legislation, business practice reform and supporting multi-level action addressing climate change.”
“If we want to safeguard our people and society, we need to act now to both reduce emissions to curb warming and to prepare for the inevitable changes already set in motion,” said Twila Moon, first author of the study and research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
“Essentially anything and everything that reduces greenhouse gases,” the authors write, “helps to curb rapid Arctic change and reduce impacts in the U.S. and globally.”
Kate Petersen | Ecoss
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