The warming of Arctic Ocean and its impacts

  • IASbaba
  • December 17, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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Context: Recently Finnish Meteorological Institute researchers published their study in the  Communications Earth & Environment journal, concluding that the Arctic is heating four times faster than the rest of the planet.

  • The warming is more concentrated in the Eurasian part of the Arctic, where the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway is warming at an alarming rate — seven times faster than the global average.
  • Nearly 150 experts from 11 nations compiled this year’s assessment of Arctic conditions (the Arctic Report Card) which The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have produced since 2006.

About Arctic Region:

  • It is commonly understood to refer to the region above the Arctic Circle, north of latitude 66° 34′ N, which includes the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its center.
  • Eight Arctic States: Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and USA form the Arctic Council.
  • The Arctic is home to almost four million inhabitants, of which approximately one tenth are considered as indigenous people.
  • The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding landmass has been a topic of immense interest and a high-priority area of research among the global scientific fraternity as well as of importance to policy makers.
  • The Arctic influences atmospheric, oceanographic, and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem.

Major challenges associated with arctic warming:

  • Climate Change: They described how hotter air temperatures, melting sea ice, shorter periods of snow cover, increased wildfire and rising levels of precipitation have forced wildlife and Indigenous people in the region to adapt.
  • Heat wave in Greenland: It caused the most severe melting of the island’s ice sheet for that time of the year in over four decades of continuous satellite monitoring.
    • In 2021, an August heat wave had caused it to rain at the ice sheet’s summit for the first time.
  • Rising Temperatures are transforming the region’s climate into one defined less by sea ice, snow, and permafrost and more by open water, rain, and green landscapes.
  • Warming at the top of the Earth raises sea levels worldwide, changes the way heat and water circulate in the oceans, and might even influence extreme weather events like heat waves and rainstorms.
  • Rate of change: Over the past four decades, the region has warmed at four times the global average rate. Some parts of the Arctic are warming at up to seven times the global rate.
  • Growth in green cover: Rising temperatures have helped plants, shrubs and grasses grow in parts of the Arctic tundra.
    • Year 2022 saw levels of green vegetation that were the fourth highest since 2000 particularly in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, northern Quebec, and central Siberia.
  • Reduced snow cover: snow cover in the North American Arctic was the second-lowest on record. In the Eurasian Arctic, it was third lowest.
  • The Greenland ice sheet has lost ice for the last 25 years.
  • Maritime ship traffic: Scientists warned that maritime ship traffic is on the rise in the Arctic as sea ice declines, with the most notable increases in traffic occurring among ships travelling from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait and Beaufort Sea.

Significant Implications:

  • Threat to humanity: Our homes, livelihoods and physical safety are threatened by the rapid-melting ice, thawing permafrost, increasing heat, wildfires, and other changes.
  • Mineral Resources: Arctic region has rich deposits of coal, gypsum and diamonds and substantial reserves of zinc, lead, placer gold and quartz. Greenland alone possesses about a quarter of the world’s rare earth reserves.
  • Hydrocarbons: The Arctic also contains a wealth of hydrocarbon resources. India is the third-largest energy-consuming country in the world. The Arctic can therefore potentially address India’s energy security needs.
  • Monsoons: The link between the impact of the changing Arctic and monsoons in India is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.

India’s Arctic policy:

  • Institutional and human resource capacities will be strengthened within Government and academic, research and business institutions.
  • Inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
  • Enhancing understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic on India’s climate, economic, and energy security.
  • Contributing better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military, and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.
  • Studying linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas.
  • Deepen cooperation between India and countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
  • Increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws, and geopolitics of the region.

India’s Arctic policy would play an essential role in preparing the country for a future where humankind’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, can be addressed through collective will and effort.

Way Forward:

The problem is that we do not completely understand the factors that control how rapidly the ice flows and thus enters the ocean. One way to approach the problem of not understanding the process is to study how sea level changed in the past.  Earth is nearly as warm now as it was during the last interglacial period, about 125,000 years ago. World must act urgently to reduce and mitigate the impact of human-made climate change on the glaciers.

About National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

  • It is an American scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charts the seas, conducts deep sea exploration, and manages fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species in the U.S. exclusive economic zone.
  • NOAA’s five fundamental activities are:
    • Monitoring and observing Earth systems with instruments and data collection networks.
    • Understanding and describing Earth systems through research and analysis of data.
    • Assessing and predicting the changes in these systems over time.
    • Engaging, advising, and informing the public and partner organizations with relevant information.
    • Custodianship of environmental resources.

Source: Indian Express


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