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Arctic flunks global warming test


The Arctic received its third annual report card yesterday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and like a kid ill-prepared to face one of the hardest tests of all time (in this case, global warming), the results don’t look good.

Autumn temperatures in the Arctic are at a record 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5º C) above normal, according to researchers, and that’s just the first page. Other low marks of performance include a near-record minimum sea ice cover; a significant reduction in the amount of older, thicker ice; and an increase in temperature of surface and deep ocean water. The hits just keep on coming!

Greenland in particular didn’t test well: Last year it had more snow melt than ever before (at least since the 1970s). Plus, this year’s decrease in snow days had the added effect of increasing its absorption of solar radiation (i.e. heat), which means hotter temps for the icy island.

Also, Greenland's largest glacier continued its retreat, losing at least 100 cubic km (24 cubic miles) of ice. Perhaps the glacier should get a gold star for having the honored distinction of being one of the largest single contributors to global sea level rise.

Not surprisingly, the great thaw is also making Arctic animals perform poorly. Declining polar bear populations, walrus redistributions that have triggered increases in walrus’ trampling each other, and declining numbers of wild caribou and reindeer are scribbled across the Arctic like red ink on a poorly written book report.

But though test results like these may make you want to ball up and weep, we at Plenty have decided not to flunk out just yet. After all, in less than two months there will be a brand new leader that’ll (hopefully) come better primed for the climate exam. In the meantime, we’ll be taking notes (and lucky for you, we don’t mind you sneaking a peek at them).

By: Jessica A. Knoblauch