Climate Change Is Affecting The Arctic’s Rain and Snow, Says NOAA

Conditions are rapidly changing as the Arctic warms. The Arctic is now seeing more rainfall when historically it would be snowing.

Ship traffic in the Arctic is also increasing, bringing new risks to fragile ecosystems, and the Greenland ice sheet is continuing to send freshwater and ice into the ocean, raising global sea level.

In the annual Arctic Report Card, released Dec. 13, 2022, we brought together 144 other Arctic scientists from 11 countries to examine the current state of the Arctic system.

When Fairbanks, Alaska, got 1.4 inches of freezing rain in December 2021, the moisture created an ice layer that persisted for months, bringing down trees and disrupting travel, infrastructure and the ability of some Arctic animals to forage for food.

The entire Arctic region has seen a more than 40% loss in summer sea ice extent over the 44-year satellite record.

Under the ground, the wetter, rainier Arctic is accelerating the thaw of permafrost, upon which most Arctic communities and infrastructure are built.

Snow helps to keep the Arctic cool by reflecting incoming solar radiation back to space, rather than allowing it to be absorbed by the darker snow-free ground.

The June snow cover extent across the Arctic is declining at a rate of nearly 20% per decade, marking a dramatic shift in how the snow season is defined and experienced across the North.

Fatal falls through thin sea, lake and river ice are on the rise across Alaska, resulting in immediate tragedies as well as adding to the cumulative human cost of climate change that Arctic Indigenous peoples are now experiencing on a generational scale.

The impacts of Arctic warming are not limited to the Arctic.

Satellite-based ship data since 2009 clearly show that maritime ship traffic has increased within all Arctic high seas and national exclusive economic zones as the region has warmed.

For these ecologically sensitive waters, this added ship traffic raises urgent concerns ranging from the future of Arctic trade routes to the introduction of even more human-caused stresses on Arctic peoples, ecosystems and the climate.

These concerns are especially pronounced given uncertainties regarding the current geopolitical tensions between Russia and the other Arctic states over its war in Ukraine.

Rapid Arctic warming requires new forms of partnership and information sharing, including between scientists and Indigenous knowledge-holders.