Report: Alaska warming twice as fast as global average

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A federal report, gaining attention after a recent New York Times story, outlines the devastating effects of climate change in Alaska.

According to the report, more than a dozen federal agencies and nearly 50 authors used scientific and peer-reviewed research to create an “authoritative assessment of the science of climate change.”

Below are quotes from the document.

WARMING

“Annual average near-surface air temperatures across Alaska and the Arctic have increased over the last 50 years at a rate more than twice as fast as the global average temperature (Very high confidence.)” [pg 443]

“It is virtually certain that Alaska glaciers have lost mass over the last 50 years, with each year since 1984 showing an annual average ice mass less than the previous year.” [pg 443]

“...strong near-surface air temperature warming has occurred across Alaska exceeding 1.5°F (0.8°C) over the last 30 years. Especially strong warming has occurred over Alaska’s North Slope during autumn. For example, Utqiagvik’s (formally Barrow) warming since 1979 exceeds 7°F (3.8°C) in September, 12°F (6.6°C) in October, and 10°F (5.5°C) in November.” [pg 445]

“It is virtually certain that Arctic surface temperatures will continue to increase faster than the global mean through the 21st century.” [pg 445]

“Annual average ice mass from Arctic-wide glaciers has decreased every year since 1984.” [pg 451]

SEA ICE LOSS

“September sea ice extent has decreased between 10.7% and 15.9% per decade (very high confidence.)” [pg 443]

“Arctic-wide ice loss is expected to continue through the 21st century, very likely resulting in nearly sea ice-free late summers by the 2040s (very high confidence.) “ [pg 443]

“The ten lowest September sea ice extents over the satellite period have all occurred in the last ten years, the lowest in 2012.” [pg 446]

“Summer sea ice retreat along coastal Alaska has led to longer open water seasons, making the Alaskan coastline more vulnerable to erosion.” [pg 447]

ACIDIFICATION OF OCEAN

“Global-scale modeling studies suggest that the largest and most rapid changes in pH will continue along Alaska’s coast, indicating that ocean acidification may increase enough by the 2030s to significantly influence coastal ecosystems.” [pg 449]

CO2 FEEDBACK

“Rising Alaskan permafrost temperatures are causing permafrost to thaw and become more discontinuous; this process releases additional CO2 and methane, resulting in an amplifying feedback and additional warming” (high confidence.)” [pg 443]

WILDFIRES

“The incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s (high confidence) and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate warms, with profound changes to certain ecosystems (medium confidence.)” [pg 336]

“Recent decades have seen a profound increase in forest fire activity over the western United States and Alaska.” [pg 347]

“Alaskan tundra and forest wildfires will likely increase under warmer and drier conditions (Sanford et al. 2015; French et al. 2015) and potentially result in a transition into a fire regime unprecedented in the last 10,000 years.” [pg 349]

ECOLOGICAL SHIFT

“These local Arctic changes influence global sea level, ocean salinity, the carbon cycle, and potentially atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns.” [pg 444]

“A recent analysis shows large-scale greening in the Arctic and boreal regions of North America and browning in the boreal forests of eastern Alaska for the period 1984–2012.” [pg 408]

“Finally, tipping elements also exist in large-scale ecosystems. For example, boreal forests such as those in southern Alaska may expand northward in response to arctic warming.” [pg 616]

CLIMATE CHANGE

“Climate changes in Alaska and across the Arctic continue to outpace changes occurring across the globe.” [pg 444]

“There are, however, important regional and seasonal differences in projected changes in total precipitation: the northern United States, including Alaska, is projected to receive more precipitation in the winter and spring.” [pg 301]

“It is virtually certain that human activities have contributed to Arctic surface temperature warming, sea ice loss since 1979, glacier mass loss, and northern hemisphere snow extent decline observed across the Arctic.” [pg 462]