The 2018 Arctic Report Card is presented by
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Produced in collaboration with an international
team of scientists, the 13th Arctic Report Card provides a timely
review of the current state of the Arctic climate and environment in 2018. In 2018 the sea ice remained younger, thinner,
and covered less area than in the past, especially on the Pacific side of the Arctic. In the Bering Sea, ice extent was at a record
low for virtually the entire winter. Near-record sea-ice minimums have now occurred
every year for the past 12 years. Older and thicker classes of ice are also
disappearing, leaving behind a weaker and more mobile ice
pack that is less likely to survive the summer melt. Ice older than four years now makes up less
than 1% of the Arctic ice pack. Landfast ice has also been in decline since
the 1970s. Declines in Arctic sea ice are the result
of warmer air and ocean temperatures, which also are drivers of broad, long-term
change seen across the Arctic in 2018. In the ocean, warmer temperatures and receding
ice have had a profound effect on primary productivity which makes up the base of the food chain and the foundation of the marine ecosystem. On land, snow cover is decreasing and river
discharge is increasing. High temperatures records in Greenland were
set in winter, but low temperature records were broken in
summer and tundra vegetation is expanding and greening, but the population of grazing animals – caribou and wild reindeer – continue to decline sharply. The warming Arctic appears to have interconnections
with the wider world – specifically with unusual weather patterns
beyond the region. Extreme weather events in 2018 like February’s ‘Beast from the East’
severe cold outbreak in Europe and a record-setting heat wave at the North
Pole are associated with unusually persistent waves
in the jetstream that disrupt the normal exchange of heat between
the mid-latitudes and the Arctic. While the exact cause of these high-altitude
waves is still only partially understood, their linkage with unusual conditions on the
ground in the Arctic and points to the south is plain. Connections between large-scale ocean and
atmospheric circulation patterns and the warming Arctic are also related to emerging threats to Arctic
ecosystems. In the warming Arctic waters of the Bering
and Chukchi seas, algal toxins are being found in seals, walrus, whales, and other marine mammals. While the Arctic is a remote region, higher microplastic concentrations were observed
in the Arctic Basin than in all other ocean basins in the world. Particularly high concentrations were found
in the Greenland and Barents seas, and were likely transported there by Atlantic
Ocean currents. As elsewhere, marine plastics pose a major
threat to seabirds and marine life that can become entangled or ingest debris. The events of 2018 show no indication that
the Arctic will revert to the cool and icy conditions of the past any time soon. With even warmer ocean waters in the Bering
and Chukchi seas this summer, compared to the previous two years, the conditions are set for another delayed
freeze-up and low ice growth in the coming winter. There is clear evidence that the year-on-year
persistence of warmer temperatures and thinning ice is continuing to have negative impacts on
the Arctic ecosystem that threatens the health of Arctic animals
and people. For more information and to read the full
Arctic Report Card, visit www.arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card [Music]




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