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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NOAA: Unprecedented Warming in Arctic

A new NOAA-sponsored report identifies unprecedented Arctic warmth issues, including above average Arctic Ocean temperatures and changes in Arctic Ocean productivity, and predicts new stresses to marine fisheries. The Arctic Report Card released during the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 13, is a report compiled from the work of scientists from 11 nations, and a key tool used worldwide to track changes in the Arctic.

The report notes that the Arctic Ocean, more than other oceanic areas, is more vulnerable to ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification is expected to intensify in the Arctic, adding new stress to marine fisheries, particularly those that need calcium carbonate to build shells,” the report said. “This change affects Arctic communities that depend on fish for food security, livelihoods and culture.”

“Rarely have we seen the Arctic show a clearer, stronger or more pronounced signal of persistent warming and its cascading effects on the environment than this year,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program.

“While the science is becoming clearer, we need to improve and extend sustained observations of the Arctic that can inform sound decisions on environmental health and food security as well as emerging opportunities for commerce.”

In a presentation at the Alaska Ocean Acidification State of the Science Workshop in Anchorage on Nov. 30, Mathis spoke of the important of NOAA’s beginning to work on ocean acidification adaptation strategies, saying that as yet there are no known answers on how to adapt.

Even small amounts of carbon dioxide can cause significant chemical changes that other areas do not experience. Current data indicates that certain areas of the Arctic shelves presently are experiencing prolonged ocean acidification events in shallow bottom waters, which are eventually transported off the shelf. As a result, the report said, corrosive conditions have been expanding deeper into the Arctic Basin over the last several decades. The inherently short Arctic food web linkages generate an increased urgency in the need to understand the impacts of ocean acidification on the Arctic marine ecosystem, the report said.

The new Arctic Report Card notes that Arctic air temperatures are continuing to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase, and that contrary to conditions in much of the previous decade, neutral to cold temperature anomalies occurred across the central Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2016. Read more of the NOAA report at http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card/Report-Card-2016

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