Why changes in the Arctic matter globally: Glaciers and Sea Level1
Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed over 40% of the global sea level rise of around .118 inches (3 mm) per year observed between 2003 and 2008. In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 3 to 5.2 feet (0.9-1.6 m) by 2100 and Arctic ice loss will make a substantial contribution to this.2
Changes in the Arctic cryosphere3 have impacts on global climate and sea level1
All the main sources of freshwater entering the Arctic Ocean are increasing — river discharge, rain/snow, and melting glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Recent calculations estimate that an extra 1847 cubic miles (7700 km3) of freshwater — equivalent to one metre of water over the entire land surface of Australia — has been added to the Arctic Ocean in recent years. There is a risk that this could alter large-scale ocean currents that affect climate on a continental scale.
Melting glaciers and ice sheets worldwide have become the biggest contributor to global sea level rise. Arctic glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed .118 inches (3 mm) — over 40% — of the total .122 inches (3.1 mm) global sea level rise observed every year between 2003 and 2008. These contributions from the Arctic to global sea level rise are much greater than previously measured.
High uncertainty surrounds estimates of future global sea level. Latest models predict a rise of 3 to 5.2 feet (0.9 to 1.6 m) above the 1990 level by 2100, with Arctic ice making a significant contribution.
Major Greenland ice sheet loss in 2010 is thought to be related to regional Arctic sea ice loss and increased warm winds from the south.
References and Definitions:
12011 Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment - coordinated by AMAP and produced in collaboration with IASC, WMO/Clic and IASSA - Executive Summary (30MB download)
2Key finding 13 in the 2011 Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment.
3The cryosphere is the part of the Earth's surface that is frozen for some part of the year. It includes frozen water in the form of sea ice, glacier ice, ice sheets, ice caps, snow cover, lake and river ice, and frozen ground.