Foto: Espen Storheim / Nansensenteret

Surprising findings on the future of warming in the Arctic

The Arctic has been warming rapidly, and Richard Davy from the Nansen Center and Philipp Griewank from the University of Vienna set out to find out how this trend will change throughout this century. 

Surveying the Earth’s climate, especially in the Arctic region, from space has been possible since 1979. Thanks to satellites we have continuous observations that show the Arctic has been warming at almost four times the global average. This phenomenon is called Arctic amplification. The amplified warming in the Arctic has already impacted the environment in the region, affecting people living, working, and operating there. There is also evidence for the warming having begun to affect winter weather further south, for example in Europe, Canada, and the USA. Its impacts reach wide, and knowing what will happen in the future is important on multiple levels.

Arctic amplification is closely tied to what happens to the sea ice in the region. Higher temperatures in the Arctic melt the sea ice faster, and reductions in sea ice further increase the temperatures in turn, creating a feedback loop. So, what changes in Arctic amplification can we expect to see in the future, considering that the Arctic is predicted to be ice-free during summers by the 2040’s?

The current consensus is that with retreating and thinning summer ice, and the shift to an ice cover only present in the winter months, the Arctic amplification will weaken, as many processes contributing to it will themselves likely weaken with less sea ice present. Richard Davy and Philipp Griewank studied when we can expect slower rates of warming, and they found out something surprising in their new articleWe have already passed the peak in the region – in the early 2000’s!

During that time, a maximum in loss of sea-ice area, thickness, and volume occurred. Richard Davy on how the future of Arctic amplification looks like, according to their findings: “It is highly unlikely that we will see the same amplified warming – four times higher than the global rate – in the Arctic again in this century.”  Warming will continue, but at a slowed down rate. The fact that the peak is already passed, and that Arctic amplification is slowing down is a clear sign of how much the Arctic has already been changed, especially with respect to the sea ice.

Hva er arktisk forsterkning?

Høyere temperaturer i Arktis smelter sjøisen raskere og reduksjoner i sjøis fører til at temperaturene øker ytterligere. Dette skaper en tilbakemeldingssløyfe. Prosessen blir betegnet som arktisk forsterkning og den er nært knyttet til hva som skjer med sjøisen i regionen. Så hvilke endringer i arktisk forsterkning kan vi forvente å se i fremtiden, med tanke på at Arktis er spådd å være isfritt om sommeren innen 2040-tallet?


Environmental Research Letters:
«Arctic amplification has already peaked»