Late March 2022, the tail end of the 6-month Arctic winter. Temperature readings at a
number of weather stations in the Arctic reach 30 degrees Celsius above seasonal
norms. Was this just a one-off event?
Research by the Arctic Assessment and Monitoring Programme (AMAP) suggests that
between 1979 and 2019, average surface temperatures in the Arctic increased 3 times
faster than the global average.
How has the Arctic been affected by surging temperatures and what are the
implications for the planet as a whole?
How did we get to 30 degrees...and rising?
No Data Available
The start of the AMAP study and the year of the first
World Climate Conference. Modern debates on made-made climate change have been raging for over
The globe on the left shows how much warmer/colder areas of the world were in 1979, compared
to the 1951-1980 baseline,
the so called temperature anomalies. The temperature anomaly range in 1979 was -2.7 °C to +2.1 °C.
The majority of the warmer than average regions were concentrated in Alaska, the Canadian east
coast and present day Russia.
Most of the Arctic was below the baseline temperature in the year. It should be noted that care
has to be taken in drawing
conclusions from a single year as it is recognised that short-term,
temporal variations in temperature occur due to natural variability.
No Data Available
Fast forward to the end of the millennium and the warming effect appears far more widespread.
By 1999, the temperature anomaly had increased to -2.1 to +3.0 °C.
Looking at the Arctic region, a pronounced warming of the area is observable compared to the
pattern of temperature anomalies seen in 1979.
How does the pattern evolve? Scroll on to find out.
Global land average surface temperatures had increased to approximately 1.32°C above 1951-1980
making 2019 the second warmest year on land since 1850.
A 1.5°C increase above pre-industrial temperature levels is widely regarded by climate
scientists to be the entry
point into a surface temperature “danger zone”, beyond which the impact on the Earth’s climate
is forecast to be catastrophic.
Some cooler regions visible in North America are likely attributable to natural variability: the
overall development of global
temperatures remains consistent with a long term trend towards global warming.
Panning to the Arctic Circle shows the noticeable effect of Arctic Amplification with large
sections of the region at over 4°C above the baseline temperature.
Between the North Pole and 30° South - the Arctic - is changing.
%sea ice decline per decade
Arctic Sea Ice
Sea ice - frozen ocean water- forms in the Arctic every winter and retreats in the summer.
It is of essential importance for the polar ecosystems, however the global rising temperatures have
led to more ice loss than gain over the seasons, which resulted in dramatic arctic sea ice decline
over the last 30 years with September 2012 marking a record minimum.
The melting sea ice in turn contributes to the acceleration of global warming since large ice sheets
are replaced by dark ocean stretches, further heating up the water.
Arctic Sea Ice
On land, massive bodies of ice millions of years old have been dissapearing.
gigatonsof lost glacial ice
Glaciers are more sensitive to global warming than previously expected.
A glacier retreats when its front does not extend as far downvalley as it previously did.
Whether seen or not, the world's glaciers are at a sigificant rate of retreating.
Through satellite archives of surface elevation, the accelerated pattern of glacier retreat can
Most freshwater ice is found in the polar ice caps and glaciers.
Let us take a look at what is truly happenning.
Elevation Change Rate for Glaciers
Past and Present Glacier Comparison
What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic.
mmsea level rise per year
Global Sea Level
The retreating glaciers in the Arctic have global effects: the melting water is added to the oceans,
causing sea level changes and impacting coastal populations.
Sea-levels are also affected by the thermal expansion of the oceans due to rising temperatures.
This combined effect has resulted in a 210-240mm sea-level rise globally since 1880, with about a
third of it occurring just in the last two a half decades.
In the future, sea level will continue to rise, possibly by as much as 1 m by the end of this
century, if we do not address the problem of global warming. Such change poses great problems for
the 250 million people who live close to the sea.
Global Sea Level Change
These visualisations show that climate change did not begin yesterday, last week or last year.
The effects have not only endured over the lifetime of every visitor to this site but have also
demonstrably worsened over the last 40 years.
This project also shows that climate change, although almost always referred to in the singular, is
actually a series of interlinked changes
operating at different scales.
In the case of the Arctic, a global effect -surface temperature increases- drives a local positive
feedback loop, sea ice and glacial melting leads
to a reduction in oceanic heat absorption, which leads to further localised heating. Glacial
melting, in turn, contributes to
rising global sea levels.
Climate scientists have warned that global warming of 1.5°C degrees above pre-industrial levels
threatens to cause catastrophic
climatic effects. In 2019, we were already at 1.32°C above.
30 degrees and rising is a phenomenon we can ill afford.
30 degrees rising
Creators: Nayomi Kasthuriarachchi,
Daphne Badounas, Haisu Chen, Tianyi Li
@ CASA UCL (2022)