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Arctic Report Card

Land

J. Richter-Menge, Topic Editor

ERDC-Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH

October 19, 2010

Summary

Observations of land-based changes in the Arctic cover a wide spectrum, including variations and trends in vegetation, permafrost, river discharge, snow cover, and mountain glaciers and ice caps. In general, these observations present further evidence of the impact of a general, Arctic-wide warming trend that is accompanied by high variability from year to year and region to region. They also illustrate the connectivity between various elements of the Arctic system, with conditions being linked to atmospheric circulation patterns, sea ice conditions, and ocean surface temperatures.

Highlights:

  • A combination of low winter snow accumulation and warm spring temperatures created a new record low spring snow cover duration over the Arctic in 2010, since satellite observations began in 1966.
  • Glaciers and ice caps in Arctic Canada are continuing to lose mass at a rate that has been increasing since 1987, reflecting a trend towards warmer summer air temperatures and longer melt seasons.
  • Observations show a general increase in permafrost temperatures during the last several decades in Alaska, northwest Canada, Siberia and Northern Europe, with a significant acceleration in the warming of permafrost at many Arctic coastal locations during the last five years.
  • The greatest changes in vegetation are occurring in the High Arctic of Canada and West Greenland and Northern Alaska, where increases in greening of up to 15% have been observed from 1982 to 2008.
  • In the Eurasian river drainage basins, the correlation between increased river discharge and decreased summer minimum sea ice extent (over the period 1979-2008) is greater than the correlation between precipitation and runoff, suggesting that both rivers and sea ice were responding to changes in large-scale hemispheric climate patterns.

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