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2018 Arctic Report shows warming continues to mount

Dr. Mario Picazo
Meteorologist, PhD

Friday, December 21, 2018, 4:25 PM - Since 2006, the Arctic Report Card has been issued every year to provide reliable and concise environmental information on the current state of the different components of the Arctic environmental system compared to historical records. 

Scientists, teachers, students, decision makers and the general public interested in the Arctic environment and science follow the report closely every year.

2018 has been another year of continued warming in the Arctic atmosphere and ocean leading to broad changes in the environmental system in both predicted and unexpected ways. There is a considerable level of uncertainty as to what exactly will happen environmentally in the coming years as new threats arise and continue to grow in the region. 

For a large part of the scientific community researching the Arctic environment, not knowing exactly what the magnitude of the event will be is of great concern. Many feel the future climate scenario predictions for the region could be underestimating what is really on the way. 


  • Surface air temperatures in the Arctic this 2018 continued to warm twice as fast relative to the rest of the earth. Between 2014–18 they have exceeded all previous records since 1900.
  • On land, higher air temperatures continued to drive broad, long term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover. Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, together with an increase in summertime river discharge and the expansion and greening of the tundra vegetation are all related to the warming trend observed.

Magnitude of the overall trend in MaxNDVI (Maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) for the period 1982-2017.

  • Despite the increase in grazing vegetation growth across the Arctic tundra, the herd populations of wild reindeer and caribou have declined by close to 50% over the past two decades.
  • Older Arctic ice has been declining and this 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner and covered less are than in the past. Since satellite observation began the 12 lowest extensions of ice have occurred in the last 12 years. 

Sea ice age coverage map for (a) March 1985 and b) March 2018. (c) Sea ice age coverage by year, 1985-2018.

  • Regional variability in sea ice retreat, regional air temperatures and advection of waters from both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are linked to late summer spatial patterns in sea surface temperatures.

Ice extent anomalies in March (the month of maximum ice extent) and September (the month of minimum ice extent). The anomaly value for each year is the difference (in %) in ice extent relative to the mean values for the period 1981-2010

  • Observations of coastal landfast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s suggest a long term decline with impacts on hunting, travel and coastal protection for local communities.

  • Ocean primary production levels in the Bering Sea region during 2018, were at times 500% higher than normal levels as a result of record low sea ice extension.
  • Harmful toxic algae blooms have been expanding across the Arctic oceans coinciding with warmer sea surface temperatures. This has been a threat for food sources across the region.

  • Like in many other ocean areas around the world, microplastic contamination has also been increasing in the Arctic, posing a threat to marine life and seabirds capable of ingesting the debris.


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