The Arctic in the 21st century is exposed to multiple challenges. Global warming will have far-reaching repercussions, and thus will open up new opportunities. The melting of the ice enables the exploitation of resources and the use of new shipping routes, which were not accessible up to now. However, these opportunities require new responsibilities, which have to be taken seriously. These developments in the Arctic partake an increasing position in the international environmental discussion. The present book contains a comprehensive analysis of the current problems with regard to the Arctic region. It highlights contributions and conclusions of the Conference on New Chances and New Responsibilities in the Arctic Region, held in Berlin from 11-13 March 2009 and organized by the German Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Foreign Ministries of Norway and Denmark. The conference addressed the challenges for environment, societies and research, new prospects for resource exploitation and maritime traffic, and emerging questions of an international governance frame work for the Arctic. The contributors are leading Arctic experts from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business, science and civil society. The book represents a most valuable tool for all those in politics, academia, private sector or civil society, who seek to understand the problems of the Arctic and aim at participating in addressing the challenges the region faces in a time of climate change.
The seminar focused on the rapid changes that increased international attention and climate change, amongst other external factors, bring to the circumstances and livelihoods of the people of the circumpolar Arctic region. It built on the need to redefine cultural heritage, including Indigenous / local (environmental) knowledge, and 'paradiplomacy', as part of 'industrial civilization', given its importance in relations to fossil fuel-based development, such as offshore-drilling and the shaping of the future of the circumpolar North. By focusing on resilience, rather than sustainable development, an emphasis was put on the capability of institutions to learn and fix problems by themselves as they emerge. The consequences of regional and global processes happening in the Arctic directly affect a multitude of actors, including important non-state local and regional ones, such as the scientific community. On every level of Arctic development, one can hear the voices of these actors, but are they given enough attention by policy-makers and researchers? How are the voices of different communities being heard, or not heard, in public and political discussions? It is also important to consider the role of different stakeholders, such as scholars and scientists, their participation in shaping Arctic futures and how, in turn, it influences other actors in the region. The seminar shed light on the importance of maintaining and further developing the interplay between science and politics, between scientific knowledge and Indigenous / local knowledge, as well as between material and immaterial things and values, as it supports and promotes high political stability in the Arctic. Faced with grand challenges and unforeseen problems, the value and validity of an open trans-disciplinary and inter-sectoral dialogue, where participants focus on issues and engage each other, is more important than ever.
In 2003, the U.S. Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) hosted an international meeting to review evidence of system-wide Arctic environmental change. Since then, rate and extent of such change have increased and are impacting Arctic communities, ecosystems, and society at large. The State of the Arctic (SoA) Conference, held in spring of 2010, brought together over 400 participants from 16 countries, including representatives of indigenous organizations, to exchange new findings from research in a changing Arctic. Reflecting the close coupling between different components of the Arctic system, the international conference organizing committee grouped contributions into four themes: (1) Advances in Understanding the Arctic System, Including Human Dimensions, (2), Arctic Changeâ??Rapid, System-Scale Changes and the Capability to Project Future States of the Arctic System Under Various Scenarios, (3) Linkages to the Earth Systemâ??Linkages and Feedbacks Between the Arctic System and the Earth System, and (4) Human Dimensions of Arctic Changeâ??Translating Research into Solutions. Here, we review highlights and key outcomes of the meeting.
Established by the eight Arctic Countries in 1991, and
now one of the groups serving the Arctic Council, AMAP is charged with coordinating monitoring and performing scientific assessments of pollution and climate change issues in the circum-Arctic area to document trends and effects in Arctic ecosystems and humans and identify possible actions for consideration by policy makers.
Over the last four decades there has been a trend to earlier summer breakup of the sea ice in western Hudson Bay, Canada. As this sea ice is critical for the polar bears that use it for hunting, the earlier breakup is believed to be a factor in the declining health of the regional polar bear population. Analysis of the change to earlier breakup using passive microwave satellite data is problematic because of currently unquantifiable systematic errors between different satellites. Analysis using Canadian sea-ice charts from 1971 to 2008 shows that the change to earlier breakup is best represented by a 12-day step. This step occurs from 1988 to 1989 with no significant trend before or after the step. Although not as great as the three-week gradual change suggested by previous studies, this change is still significant. An increase in regional southwesterly winds during the first three weeks of June and a corresponding increase in surface temperature are shown to be likely contributing factors to this earlier breakup. It remains to be seen whether these changes in atmospheric circulation might be ascribed to human actions or simply to natural climate variability.
The Arctic region is warming faster than most regions of the world due in part to increasing greenhouse gases and positive feedbacks associated with the loss of snow and ice cover. One consequence has been a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past 3 decades—a decline that is projected to continue by state-of-the-art models. Many stakeholders are therefore interested in how global warming may change the timing and extent of sea ice Arctic-wide, and for specific regions. To inform the public and decision makers of anticipated environmental changes, scientists are striving to better understand how sea ice influences ecosystem structure, local weather, and global climate. Here, projected changes in the Bering and Chukchi Seas are examined because sea ice influences the presence of, or accessibility to, a variety of local resources of commercial and cultural value. In this study, 21st century sea ice conditions in the Bering and Chukchi Seas are based on projections by 18 general circulation models (GCMs) prepared for the fourth reporting period by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. Sea ice projections are analyzed for each of two IPCC greenhouse gas forcing scenarios: the A1B ‘business as usual’ scenario and the A2 scenario that is somewhat more aggressive in its CO2 emissions during the second half of the century. A large spread of uncertainty among projections by all 18 models was constrained by creating model subsets that excluded GCMs that poorly simulated the 1979–2008 satellite record of ice extent and seasonality.
At the end of the 21st century (2090–2099), median sea ice projections among all combinations of model ensemble and forcing scenario were qualitatively similar. June is projected to experience the least amount of sea ice loss among all months. For the Chukchi Sea, projections show extensive ice melt during July and ice-free conditions during August, September, and October by the end of the century, with high agreement among models. High agreement also accompanies projections that the Chukchi Sea will be completely ice covered during February, March, and April at the end of the century. Large uncertainties, however, are associated with the timing and amount of partial ice cover during the intervening periods of melt and freeze. For the Bering Sea, median March ice extent is projected to be about 25 percent less than the 1979–1988 average by mid-century and 60 percent less by the end of the century. The ice-free season in the Bering Sea is projected to increase from its contemporary average of 5.5 months to a median of about 8.5 months by the end of the century. A 3-month longer ice- free season in the Bering Sea is attained by a 1-month advance in melt and a 2-month delay in freeze, meaning the ice edge typically will pass through the Bering Strait in May and January at the end of the century rather than June and November as presently observed.
Low-level temperature inversions are a common feature of the wintertime troposphere in the Arctic and Antarctic. Inversion strength plays an important role in regulating atmospheric processes including air pollution, ozone destruction, cloud formation, and negative longwave feedback mechanisms that shape polar climate response to anthropogenic forcing. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument provides reliable measures of spatial patterns in mean wintertime inversion strength when compared with available radiosonde observations and reanalysis products. Here, we examine the influence of sea ice concentration on inversion strength in the Arctic and Antarctic. Correlation of inversion strength with mean annual sea ice concentration, likely a surrogate for the effective thermal conductivity of the wintertime ice pack, yields strong, linear relationships in the Arctic (r = 0.88) and Antarctic (r = 0.86). We find a substantially greater (stronger) linear relationship between sea ice concentration and surface air temperature than with temperature at 850 hPa, lending credence to the idea that sea ice controls inversion strength through modulation of surface heat fluxes. As such, declines in sea ice in either hemisphere may imply weaker mean inversions in the future. Comparison of mean inversion strength in AIRS and global climate models (GCMs) suggests that many GCMs poorly characterize mean inversion strength at high latitudes.
Meltponds on Arctic sea ice have previously been reported to be devoid of marine metazoans due to fresh-water conditions. The predominantly dark frequently also green and brownish meltponds observed in the central Arctic in summer 2007 hinted to brackish conditions and considerable amounts of algae, possibly making the habitat suitable for marine metazoans. Environmental conditions in meltponds as well as sympagic meiofauna in new ice covering pond surfaces and in rotten ice on the bottom of ponds were studied, applying modified techniques from sea-ice and under-ice research. Due to the very porous structure of the rotten ice, the meltponds were usually brackish to saline, providing living conditions very similar to sub-ice water. The new ice cover on the surface had similar characteristics as the bottom layer of level ice. The ponds were thus accessible to and inhabitable by metazoans. The new ice cover and the rotten ice were inhabited by various sympagic meiofauna taxa, predominantly ciliates, rotifers, acoels, nematodes and foraminiferans. Also, sympagic amphipods were found on the bottom of meltponds. We suggest that, in consequence of global warming, brackish and saline meltponds are becoming more frequent in the Arctic, providing a new habitat to marine metazoans.