Changes in the Arctic impact the global climate

What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic: Climate change in the Arctic has far-reaching consequences across the globe.

Human emissions of greenhouse gases cause global warming. The impacts can be seen and felt over the entire world and are especially noticeable in the Arctic. The different components in our Earth system are connected, affecting the climate: Changes in one place can affect the climate thousands of kilometers away. And changes in the Arctic seem to have especially large consequences for the globe. It is therefore vital to better understand and predict these effects.

In our work to map climate change, we develop and use various methods and tools. Our expertise in Arctic climate research contributes to a better understanding of the global climate and climate change. We are working on how to extract more information from past and future satellite data. We also make direct measurements of ocean conditions by deploying instrument buoys. Last but not least, we can simulate past and future climate using numerical models, which we feed with climate data. The results of the simulations provide insight into the causes of past and present climate variations in the Arctic and show how the Arctic climate is part of a global context. The ultimate goal is to be able to predict future developments as accurately as possible.

But what is actually going on in the Arctic? Over the past decades, rising temperatures in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and on land have been recorded. Glaciers and ice caps are melting, and the sea-ice cover is dramatically reduced. Higher temperatures lead to more melting of sea ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean, and especially what we call multi-year ice (sea ice that has survived at least one summer) is declining. It is not unlikely that we will see the first ice-free summers in the Arctic just 25 years from now, with no more multi-year ice being present. On land, permafrost is thawing, releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and melting land ice causes sea-level rise. The impacts of the increased temperatures in the Arctic are severe.

The shrinking of the Arctic’s sea-ice cover causes the Earth to warm up even more: White surfaces, such as sea ice, snow, or glaciers, reflect sunlight very effectively, and solar energy is therefore directed back into space, while dark surfaces, such as the ocean or snow- and ice-free land, absorb most of this energy, leading to even higher temperatures. We know that the Arctic is warming about four times faster than the global average, which is bad news for the rest of the planet.

These changes in the Arctic have impacts both locally, for example on ecosystems in the ocean and on land; and globally. Changes in the conditions in the Arctic affect, and will continue to affect, circulation patterns both in the atmosphere and in the ocean, impacting climate globally.

The research at the Nansen Center is of great importance in providing descriptions of climate change, which in turn form the basis for finding measures to limit the changes or their consequences, both locally, regionally, and globally.

The changes that have been going on in the Arctic over the past decades are drastic, they have impacts on the entire globe’s climate, and we have not yet seen the end of it. It is important to figure out how to calculate the impacts, so we know what changes we are facing.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

In October of last year, researchers from different research institutions met. The topic was discussions and exchange of knowledge on how climate models simulate the development of climatic conditions in the Arctic.

Read more here.

Climate models

To be able to calculate the development in climate, we need to use climate models. Such models produce predictions based on natural or man-made influencing factors such as solar radiation, volcanoes, greenhouse gases, and particle emissions can be included in the calculation basis. Over years, we have contributed to the development of internationally recognized climate models, which provide more precise projections, i.e., forecasts, of climate change. The models can also be used to increase knowledge about past climates.

Read more here.