Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

The Arctic Report Card – Are We Passing?

By Marcy Davis

A small bird rests atop of bit of melting ice near Ilulissat, Greenland. All photos: Ed Stockard

 

And you think your students’ grades are dismal?

NOAA recently released the 2009 Arctic Report Card, an annual peer-reviewed summary on the state-of-the-Arctic compiled by an international group of arctic experts and scientists.  This year’s headline reads, “Warming of the Arctic continues to be widespread, and in some cases, dramatic. Linkages between air, land, sea, and biology are evident.”

The report, now in its third year, seeks to communicate up-to-date scientific information to scientists, students, teachers, and policy-makers. Concise descriptions of changes in atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, land, and biological markers are presented with descriptive photographs, graphics, and relevant references. The Greenland Ice Sheet receives special consideration as a sensitive indicator of arctic climate warming.

This iceberg in Disko Bay probably once belonged to Greenland's mighty Jakobshavn Glacier.

Some Arctic Report Card highlights include:

  • Melting multi-year sea ice is being replaced by first-year sea ice
  • Unprecedented amounts of fresh water in the upper layer of the Arctic Ocean from melting sea ice
  • Declining numbers in many caribou and reindeer herds
  • Record-setting summer temperatures and ice sheet loss in Greenland
  • Changes in atmospheric circulation due to heating of the ocean surface
  • More discharge from Siberian rivers
  • Less snow in North America

A caribou near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Can we do better next year?

 View the Arctic Report Card:  Update for 2009 http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/index.html