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The end of the Arctic as we know it?

A new report released at the International Conference on Arctic Science in the United States this week shows that profound changes are under way in the Arctic. Driven by increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and a warming Arctic Ocean, these changes are so dramatic, and so rapid, that they are creating a new Arctic climate. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), one of the Arctic Council’s six working groups, used the conference to launch its second Snow, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) report. The document assesses the current state of knowledge on the Arctic cryosphere (the portion of the earth’s surface that is seasonally or perennially frozen), the past, present and future trends and their implications. The assessment points to some major, and worrying, changes in the region. For a variety of reasons, the Arctic has been warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world for the past 50 years and that’s having dramatic effects on the Arctic cryosphere. This rapid warming is reducing the extent of older, multi-year sea ice to 4 million km2 from around 7.5 million km2 in 1979. It is also shrinking glaciers, reducing snow cover, and thawing permafrost…”

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