Scientists detect shift in Arctic Ocean system



The Arctic Ocean system has shifted to a “new normal” since 2006, and there are now a sufficient number of years of data to indicate this shift, according to a new Arctic Report Card. The report card, issued on 1 December by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other agencies, and an international team of researchers, indicates that 2011 saw significant changes to the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice and ocean, and hydrology and terrestrial cryosphere, as well as some changes to Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and this shift has widespread environmental and social implications. The report refers to 2006 because precursors that year led to dramatic sea ice loss in 2007. “The shift is characterized by the persistent decline in the thickness and summer extent of the sea ice cover and a warmer, fresher upper ocean,” according to the report, which also indicates a repeated occurrence of 2010 Arctic winter wind patterns this year that are different from the norm, among other concerns. “The 2011 report card shows that record-setting changes are occurring throughout the Arctic environmental system. Given the projection of continued global warming, it is very likely that major Arctic changes will continue in years to come, with increasing climatic, biological, and social impacts,” the report indicates.