The Arctic is Warming 4x as Fast as the Rest of the Planet

August 12, 2022

10 years ago we thought the arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Then we decided it was 3x.
Nope. Four times as fast.


In recent decades, the warming in the Arctic has been much faster than in the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Numerous studies report that the Arctic is warming either twice, more than twice, or even three times as fast as the globe on average. Here we show, by using several observational datasets which cover the Arctic region, that during the last 43 years the Arctic has been warming nearly four times faster than the globe, which is a higher ratio than generally reported in literature. We compared the observed Arctic amplification ratio with the ratio simulated by state-of-the-art climate models, and found that the observed four-fold warming ratio over 1979–2021 is an extremely rare occasion in the climate model simulations. The observed and simulated amplification ratios are more consistent with each other if calculated over a longer period; however the comparison is obscured by observational uncertainties before 1979. Our results indicate that the recent four-fold Arctic warming ratio is either an extremely unlikely event, or the climate models systematically tend to underestimate the amplification.

New York Times:

The rapid warming of the Arctic, a definitive sign of climate change, is occurring even faster than previously described, researchers in Finland said Thursday.

Over the past four decades the region has been heating up four times faster than the global average, not the two to three times that has commonly been reported. And some parts of the region, notably the Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia, are warming up to seven times faster, they said.

One result of rapid Arctic warming is faster melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which adds to sea-level rise. But the impacts extend far beyond the Arctic, reaching down to influence weather like extreme rainfall and heat waves in North America and elsewhere. By altering the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator, the warming Arctic appears to have affected storm tracks and wind speed in North America.

Manvendra K. Dubey, an atmospheric scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and an author of an earlier study with similar findings, said the faster rate of warming of the Arctic was worrisome, and points to the need to closely monitor the region.

“One has to measure it much better, and all the time, because we are at the precipice of many tipping points,” like the complete loss of Arctic sea ice in summers, he said.

The two studies serve as a sharp reminder that humans continue to burn fossil fuels and pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at rates that are dangerously heating the planet and unleashing extreme weather.

Just weeks after a deadly heat wave clamped down on European capitals, shattering records in Britain, extreme temperatures are again engulfing western Europe this week. The heaviest rainfall in decades inundated Seoul, South Korea, killing at least nine and damaging nearly 3,000 structures. And the McKinney wildfire continues to rage in Northern California, destroying 60,000 acres, killing four people and triggering a mass fish kill.

If the rate of warming in the Arctic continues to speed up, the influence on weather could worsen, one of the researchers said. And projections of future climate impacts might need to be adjusted, said Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki.


2 Responses to “The Arctic is Warming 4x as Fast as the Rest of the Planet”

  1. redskylite Says:

    And just to make matters worse, another factor that climate models don’t account for . . . .

    “Thawing Arctic hillsides release a significant amount of organic carbon that has been locked in frozen ground for thousands of years but which now can contribute to an already warming climate.”

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Peter, back in 2013 you had an interview with Anton Vaks about permafrost:

    Dr Anton Vaks has published research which shows that continuous permafrost areas of central Siberia, 60° N, began to melt historically when, in past interglacials, temperatures reached 1.5 C above preindustrial levels.

    I’ve always wondered if that 1.5°C applied to global average temperatures or the regional warming numbers, because we sure are seeing a lot of heat waves hitting the Arctic Circle in recent years.

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