The latest State of the Arctic Coast report is out, and the news is chilling because the ice is not. It’s melting faster than anyone realized, according to the April 17 study by an international consortium of scientists.
“The circumpolar Arctic coast is arguably one of the most critical zones in terms of the rapidity and the severity of environmental change and the implications for human communities dependent on coastal resources,” said the group of researchers in a statement.
The past decade has been the warmest on record for global surface air temperature, the report pointed out, and some Arctic regions have warmed at an even faster pace than other parts of the world.
The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, had reported similar findings for the short term on March 23, when it noted that sea ice had reached its maximum on March 7 and was at nearly an all-time low, the Nunatsiaq News reported. The maximum this year was 462,000 square miles less than the average of 6.1 million square miles from 1979 to 2000, the same as the other low-coverage record, in 2006. Records have been kept since 1979, the newspaper said.
“In the face of unprecedented and jarring changes in the local environment on which traditional livelihoods and cultures depend, Arctic coastal communities are coping with rapid population growth, technological change, economic transformation, confounding social and health challenges and, in much of the Arctic, rapid political and institutional change,” the report said.
The international consortium that initiated and coordinated the study consisted of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the global joint project Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ), the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) working group of the Arctic Council.
According to the European Union’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) news site, a team of more than 30 experts from 10 countries participated in the research. Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research at the Helmholtz Association and the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht in Germany contributed to the studies, which probed more than 62,000 miles of Arctic coast.
John Smol, an expert on Arctic biodiversity from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said the report should serve as a wakeup call to Canada, whose Inuit peoples are at the forefront of the change.
“I still don’t think people grasp how serious the problem is,” Smol told Postmedia News. “I hate to say it, but I think the worst is yet to come.”