Climate change has caused temperatures to climb around the world, but the Arctic has warmed nearly four times as quickly as the rest of the planet since 1979, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment—doubling previous estimates of Arctic warming.
The mean temperature change over the 43-year period from 1979 to 2021 in the Arctic was 0.73 degrees Celsius per decade, compared to a global mean of 0.19 degrees Celsius, according to the study, written by scientists at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
The finding doubles previous estimates, which stated the Arctic is heating twice as fast as the rest of the globe, reinforcing concerns of climate change’s effects on the Arctic, which researchers say is “more sensitive to global warming than previously thought.”
Ocean heating, melting sea ice, and even air pollution in Europe are among the factors that scientists believe have accelerated warming in the Arctic, a process known as Arctic amplification.
The most extreme temperature rise was in an area north of Russia called Novaya Zemlya, where it warmed seven times as fast as the rest of the globe.
Warmer temperatures in the Arctic not only have dramatic effects on the habitat in the area—they also lead to unpredictable water levels as snow and ice melt from Greenland, northern Canada and Siberia. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the season in which ice melts in the Arctic has become longer since 1980, stretching from early June to September—a primary indicator of climate change. A 2020 NOAA report found record-low snow numbers across the Eurasian Arctic in spring of that year, the second-lowest amount of sea ice in the time satellite imagery has been used, and the average temperature between October 2019 and September 2020 on land was the second-highest since 1900. And the more that sea ice melts, the faster future melting will occur, according to Thursday’s study, which found water absorbs more heat from the sun than ice because ice more easily reflects it.
In a study published Wednesday in Nature, researchers also found warming is bringing coniferous boreal forests north into previously unforested areas of the Arctic tundra that haven’t had pine trees since the ice age.