The Bulletin of American Meteorological System (BAMS) State of the Climate 2016 report was released on August 10 with key contributions from IARC scientists.
The report highlights significant changes and record breaking temperatures in the Artic and Alaska.
Compared to lower latitudes, the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate with 2016 being the warmest year for Alaska since 1925.
With new wind patterns occurring, warmer air from storms in the lower latitudes are being brought up to the north.
“The winds account for some of the warming, but the other half is due to other factors,” explains John Walsh, IARC chief scientist.
These possible factors include anthropogenic causes, carbon dioxide, and greenhouse warming.
“El Niño affects the winds, but we also had this build up of greenhouse gases,” says Walsh. “So when you mix them together, you get the ingredients for record high temperatures.”
These record high temperatures have caused a domino effect with sea ice and snow cover decreasing, glaciers retreating, and permafrost thawing. According to the report, Alaska experienced record low snow cover in April and May along with record high temperatures at permafrost observatories on the North Slope. Even the vegetation is shifting due to these environmental changes with greening vegetation on the North Slope and browning vegetation in Western Alaska.
“All these changes create the bigger picture that tells a consistent story and temperature is front and center,” says Walsh.
With temperature increasing, Alaskans can continue to expect less extreme winters and more extreme summers with 2016 surpassing record highs and falling short of record lows. Walsh explains that Alaskans should expect warmer years to be more frequent, but not every year.
“This year probably won’t be one of the warmest years on record, but it will be one of the many dips and rises on a pattern that is trending upwards,” explains Walsh.
To read the full report, please visit the BAMS website.