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The Arctic Is Unraveling As Climate Change Intensifies

Does Congress need to act on climate change?

by Axios | Updated on 12.13.18

Reproduced from Zachary Labe using PIOMAS data; Chart: Axios Visuals


Rapid climate change is transforming the Arctic, from the bottom of the sea floor to the top of windswept glaciers. Sea ice is disappearing, land-based ice is melting, and a domino effect of ecosystem changes have been set into motion, with unknown results.

Why it matters: New research published this week shows the peril that awaits companies that choose to operate in the harsh, unstable region, which is increasingly the focus of oil and gas drilling activity. In addition, sea ice loss may be rewriting global weather patterns, contributing to extreme weather events as far away as the Lower 48 states.

The big picture: The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world, owing largely to feedbacks known as “Arctic amplification.” Melting sea ice and snow yields ground to darker ocean waters and land cover, which absorb more of the sun’s incoming energy.

“The Arctic is shifting over time from white to blue,” says Karen Frey, a geographer at Clark University, who helped write a federal report on the changing Arctic released Tuesday, told Axios in an interview.

  • The changes are making life in the Far North less predictable and in some cases, sustainable.
  • For example, during much of last winter, the Bering Sea set a record low for sea ice cover, which altered ocean composition and may have led to mass deaths of seals and seabirds, the AP reported.
  • Frey said some places accustomed to sea ice cover 140 days per year saw just 20 days with sea ice last year, causing her to question how resilient ecosystems will be in the face of such massive changes.

The details: Tuesday’s report, known as the Arctic Report Card, found:

  • The annual average air temperature across the Arctic from October 2017 through September 2018 was the second-warmest such period on record, just behind the same period in 2015–2016.
  • All 5 of the warmest years on record in the Arctic have come since 2014.
  • The Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner, younger and more prone to melting each summer.

Increasing temperatures are causing the once-deep layer of permanently frozen soil, known as permafrost, to melt from within — and there's a dramatic new example of how bad it has gotten.

  • Vladimir Romanovsky, a scientist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, has been monitoring permafrost conditions at sites across the Frontier State for more than three decades. In 2017, for the first time on record, 25 permafrost stations in Central Alaska never froze.
  • “Thaw in summer is now stronger than cooling in winter,” Romanovsky said.

The consequences of these changes include:

  • Cracked home foundations.
  • Gas leaks.
  • Sinkholes.
  • Roads that buckle and require repairs every 2 years.
  • "Drunken forests," with trees leaning sharply after losing their rooting.
  • The release of more greenhouse gases as organisms decompose in newly active soil layers.

The bottom line: And those are just the consequences we know about so far.

-Andrew Freedman

Axios

Written by Axios

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(68)
  • burrkitty
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Way way past time to get aggressive action on this.

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  • ManfromNebraska
    Voted No
    12/14/2018
    ···

    Climate has changed back and forth since the creation of the world. It will continue to swing gently back and forth. It’s all in God’s hand.

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  • Chickie
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    It is our responsibility to do everything possible to slow down Global Warming. Global Warming is REAL. The effects of Global Warming is equal opportunity destroyer. It won’t matter if you are rich, in the middle, or poor. Storms will hit towns on the beach, on lake shores, in the plains. As #45 has no idea what Global Warming means, i.e., ”clean coal”, when it was very cold in Washington DC, #45 was quoted as saying, “And they say there’s Global Warming!” He tried burying the most recent scientific report of climate change because, “I don’t believe it”. Since the Bozo-in-Chief doesn’t believe it, Congress must bypass him to make sure laws are made or kept in place. This must be one of the top priorities.

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  • RAN
    Voted No
    12/13/2018
    ···

    No one said climate change isn’t real, it’s not caused by humans, humans can’t do anything about it. But the hoax sure does help government control people.

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  • Lori
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Our job as humans is to be good stewards to the ecology inclusive of all flora and fauna. As the representatives of the stewards, we need you to act on our behalf towards that end. Take all necessary actions to ensure we cannot damage the earth, and do all you can to ensure we protect and preserve the earth and all of the inhabitants.

    Like (11)
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  • Robert
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    ABSOLUTELY YES! Try to get China to deal w/ it also😱

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  • SirRobert
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Nero played a fiddle as Rome burned. Trump believes climate change is a hoax. Congress needs to take action to preserve our environment and our country. Impeach our current day Nero!

    Like (9)
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  • Steve
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Trump's EPA is a disaster. Literally.

    Like (8)
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  • S.
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Every life suppoet system on the planet is collapsing while the Trump administration sends pro-coal messengers to climate change conferences. We are very lucky to have such ample fentanyl to end our lives with as our fascist government will not do anything to mitigate the immense human suffering that is coming down the tube.

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  • Nancy
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    This is the most important issue that we face and we need to act quickly and aggressively because if we don’t nothing else will ever matter ever again

    Like (7)
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  • John
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    NOW!

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  • KansasTamale
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Trump is doing everything possible to contribute to the climate change INSTEAD OF TRYING TO REVERSE IT. Congress is going to have to do something or we’ll be under water.

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  • doingmypart
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Your stupid and undermining what we the people want, if you don’t recognize that global warming or climate change is real you should be fired.

    Like (5)
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  • Nick
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    There is no Earth 2.0. Either we take care of the planet or it will take care of us.

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  • Brian
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    I support action on climate change but here in Oklahoma where our corrupt representative rule no action will be taken unless they can rape and pillage for example Inhofe pushed for increased military spending then went and bought stock to profit from his work in congress

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  • Lionman
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    I would love to see the Congress act on this, however, current data shows that it’s already too late. In the coming years the permafrost will continue to melt, turning most of Alaska into a territory of mush, that you cannot drive on, therefore cannot build on because the ground isn’t solid enough for that. Unfortunately, Siberia will see the same events unfold as well. The US will have to abandon three quarters of the infrastructure that exists there today because the foundations they are built on will no longer be solid enough to support them.

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  • Glassesinplace
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    This is our planet. And not just humanity’s, either. We coexist here. We must do everything we can to continue that.

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  • Eric
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Do something.

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  • Jan
    Voted Yes
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Please tell President Trump to stop drilling for oil in the Gulf. Also is there not underground cables and islands that are inhabited by humans that control this ? Islands not seen via Google Maps ? Research documentaries please. Man made weather... is it true via You Tube ? Thank you for reading.

    Like (3)
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  • YHWHSGIRL
    Voted No
    12/13/2018
    ···

    Climate change is a scam thought up to steal more money from tax payers. Do I think we should stop dumping toxic waste in our drinking water? YES. Do I think plastic is killing the oceans? YES. Do I think spraying aluminum and heavy metals in the sky is gonna kill us all? YES. Does fluoride in the water cause brain damage? Yes. Is GMO food going to kill man and animals? YES I am as qualified as any climate change scientist to use common sense! I say the CON-gress should stay out of it and enforce the common sense laws already on the books.

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