What happens in the Arctic ...... doesn’t stay in the Arctic Even if you don’t live there, don’t do Scientific study continues to illuminate the business there, and will never travel there, changes that are underway and their the Arctic is closer than you think. Rapid global connections. climatic and other changes in the region are having profound effects, not only in the Arctic but on the rest of the planet.
Sea Ice Is Melting Global Climate gets warmer If you were to stand at the Many of the shifts underway in the Fisheries MAY CHANGE North Pole, the sea ice under Arctic are likely to contribute to Ten percent of the world’s fish catch your boots might extend as further climate changes, both in comes from Arctic and subarctic far as you could see. But over the Arctic and around the globe. waters, and about half of the United the past several decades, For example, as the area covered States fish catch comes from warmer temperatures have by reflective, white Arctic snow subarctic waters. Changes in the Permafrost Is Thawing meant there is less sea ice left and ice shrinks, darker surfaces Arctic marine environment could Permafrost (a frozen layer of soil found in at the end of the summer. like tundra and water—which have important implications for this global food source. the Arctic) derives its name from the word These visualizations show the absorb more of the Sun’s energy— “permanent,” but it is becoming markedly decrease in sea ice coverage, emerge. As a result, the reflec- Norwegian fishing boat. less so. When permafrost thaws, it can especially older “multi-year tivity, or albedo, of the region Source: Cliff Hellis have significant impacts on landscapes, ice” (shown in bright white) decreases, causing temperatures ecosystems, hydrology, and infrastruc- from 1980 (left) to 2012 to rise and more snow and ture—for example, by causing the erosion (right). Source: NASA ice to melt. Shipping & Tourism INCREASE Earth Observatory of coastlines and the collapse of roads, The percentage change in sea ice cover from In the past, few ships bridges, runways, and buildings. 2000 to 2014 shows a decrease (in red) in ventured into the Source: Stratus Consulting/University of many areas. Source: NASA Earth Observatory. perilous waters of the Colorado; NOAA Climate.gov Arctic Ocean or its various straits and Temperatures seas. Today, more Are Rising GLOBAL SEA LEVEL and more ships are Ecosystems Are Changing coming to the Arctic Temperatures are Many Arctic species are highly specialized, RISES to explore for oil and rising twice as fast having evolved in response to the unique Much of the Arctic’s gas, to conduct in the Arctic as Arctic environment over millions of years. As melting land ice and research missions, to Source: Alain A Grenier compared to the ice melts and temperatures change, these glaciers ultimately flows transport oil and average global species face mounting challenges—including into the sea, adding other commodities, temperature rise. the possibility of extinction. volume to the world’s and for tourism. Warming tempera- oceans. Sea-level rise A much warmer Arctic is evident in this tures are a driver (and associated storm map of the temperature trend from 1950 of Arctic change surges) poses significant to 2014. Source: NASA Earth Observatory/ and also may be NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies threats to human lives affecting weather During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, (GISS)/Kevin Ward and infrastructure, espe- patterns across the storm surges brought water inland global cially in vulnerable and and flooded the coastline of New Northern Hemisphere. densely populated Jersey. Source: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. coastal areas. Mark C. Olsen. impacts Arctic Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service/Dean Biggins Changes Land Ice Is Melting Ocean Circulation Ice is melting at a rapid pace on the land masses that could be DISRUPTED encircle the Arctic Ocean. Glaciers, many of which have Arctic Life Is endured since the last Ice Age or longer, are becoming smaller. As Arctic ice melts, the Arctic Ocean is being flooded with fresh water. Because the circu- NEW WEATHER PATTERNS EMERGE Changing Those that border bodies of water are increasingly breaking off Weather in the lation of ocean water is acutely affected by water Changes in the Arctic environ- into icebergs that float away and gradually melt into the sea. Northern Hemisphere temperature and salinity (saltiness), scientists Geopolitics shift ment—combined with broad is strongly influenced believe this freshwater influx could have profound Growing interest in the Arctic is political, economic, and cultural by the jet stream, an impacts on global ocean circulation, which, in turn, bringing an influx of new people, shifts—are putting new strains air current generated can alter weather patterns around the world. cultures, ideas, and opportunities from on ancient traditions. For when colder air masses all over the world. Many Arctic indig- example, melting snow and ice from the Arctic meet enous groups are experiencing greater pose problems for subsistence warmer air masses hunters who typically rely on political influence and are increasingly A family with a traditional qamutik from the tropics. sleds or snow mobiles to reach involved in decision making—for (sled) in Cape Dorset, an Inuit hamlet in Because temperatures seals, walruses, and caribou. example, reviewing proposed devel- Nunavut, Canada. Source: Angsar Walk. are rising faster in the Weather and climate observations Photographs show how the Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park opments such as mines or oil drilling Arctic than at the are used to model 30 days of the jet and Preserve, Alaska, has changed from 1976 (top) to 2003 (bottom). stream’s journey over North America. operations. Source: USGS/Bruce F. Molnia tropics, the forces that North Atlantic Ocean circulation. Source: E. Paul Oberlander, Source: NASA’s MERRA dataset Resources Are Being Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution drive the jet stream are Developed becoming less intense. This could result in longer droughts, An estimated 30 billion barrels of undis heat waves, heavy rain events, and cold snaps in North covered oil remain in the U.S. Arctic America and Europe. alone, and the Arctic also contains valuable mineral deposits, including About Arctic Matters some rare minerals critical to making Arctic Matters is an initiative by the Polar Research Board (PRB) of the National electronics. Rising demand for these raw Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to raise awareness of materials and the Arctic’s increasing scientific findings on Arctic change and its impacts around the globe. accessibility will likely increase develop- Additional support was provided by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. The National Chief Kristina Kane speaks at an Arctic Council meeting. Source: Arctic Council Source: Shutterstock/vitstudio ment in the region as reserves are Academy of Sciences was established under President Lincoln to honor top scientists and explored. provide scientific and technical advice to the nation. Center of poster: Satellite photo of the earth from above the Arctic. Courtesy of NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center Copyright 2015 by the National Academy of Sciences Find more resources at http://nas-sites.org/arctic