Why 2012 Was a Bad Year for the Arctic and All of Us

During 2012, the Arctic broke several climate records, including a level of unprecedented warmth that created rapid ice loss.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is warning in its “The State of the Climate in 2012″ report that last year was one of the 10 hottest since the beginning of recording global average temperatures.

In addition to this, Arctic sea ice melted to reach record lows during the annual summer thaw. To illustrate this, the report points out that in Greenland, around 97% of the region’s ice sheet melted: this a figure that is four times the expected figure based on the melt in previous years. We’re still feeling the effects of this and continued warming today, with the North Pole Environmental Agency issuing a warning that the summer ice has melted so fast and by so much that a shallow lake has formed.

Also, greenhouse gas emissions rose to worrying levels. In early May, the carbon dioxide ratio in the Earth’s atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million in readings taken at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory — this is thought to be the highest concentration in millions of years.

“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D is quoted as saying.

This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is produced as part of a suite of climate services offered by NOAA for the U.S. government and wider academic research.

Other concerning observations recorded in the report include a continued rise in sea levels that reached a record high in 2012 — this even without the contributing effects of the phenomena known as La Nina that saw a significant rise in 2011.

At the same time, rising ocean salinity trends have continued.

Ocean salinity (the concentration of salt water) levels were first observed changing significantly in 2004 when saltier than average readings in areas like the North Pacific were recorded, while there were fresher than average readings in high precipitation areas including the north central Indian Ocean. This trend continued in 2012. What this means in its simplest terms is that precipitation is increasing in already wet areas while evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

For instance, Brazil saw its worst drought in the past three decades, according to the report, while the Caribbean had an extremely wet dry season. Furthermore, the Sahel region of Africa saw record precipitation and flooding during its wet season, while nearly 87% of the American West saw drought conditions.

Sullivan is quoted as saying these findings “caution us, perhaps, to be looking at a likely future where extremes and intensity of some extremes are more frequent and more intense than what we have accounted for in the past.”

However, the report did yield a small piece of encouraging news. The NOAA analysts found that the climate in Antarctica remained “relatively stable overall.” Also, the warm air actually allowed a further positive in that 2012 saw the second smallest ozone hole observed in the past two decades.

This, of course, does not ameliorate the worrying trends observed throughout 2012 but does illustrate that when we talk about climate change, it is a complex picture.

Perhaps, to put this in perspective, the final word should go to John P. Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, who was not involved in this study but who says it is a firm answer to climate change deniers:

“The latest ‘State of the Climate’ report shows that the Earth continues to heat, the atmosphere is heating, the worldwide ice loss continues, and other symptoms of our warming planet march forward, without cessation. A lot of people claim that global warming has magically stopped, but the facts, and the Earth, continue to disagree.”

Image credit: Thinkstock.

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78 comments

Mark D.
Mark D.2 years ago

The human race is mentally ill or psychopathic, supposedly humans "educated" in schools can't figure out that if you release 20+ billion tons of unabsorbed CO2 into the upper atmosphere yearly, it has an effect on the real world. A rat, even an insect has more sense than this.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Biby C.
Biby C.2 years ago

All these happening....... and there are people who cares to know whether Mariah Carey wears her clothes twice!

Lisa Zilli
Lisa Zilli2 years ago

Not much longer until the point of no return...

Jessica Larsen

“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,”

Interesting..... That's one way of putting it. I have other, more negative, words for it.

Tolga U.
Tolga U.2 years ago

:(

Lisa Zilli
Lisa Zilli2 years ago

Wonder how the deniers are going to respond to this...

Malgorzata Zmuda
Malgorzata Zmuda2 years ago

To nie był zły rok, tylko ludzkie działania były złe, albo niewystarczająco dobre. A jaki będzie ten rok?

Ken W.
Ken W.2 years ago

Bad Year for the Arctic ----- it could get much worse ----- DRILL BABY DRILL ------- Quotes the FOOL never more !!!!!!!!!!!

Shari Rasmussen
SE R.2 years ago

finishing previous post: At some point, there will be simply be too many people. We need to start thinking in terms of global population and what we can do to stem the tide of ever more people on the planet. In the meantime, the arctic is melting, extinctions are rising as ecosystems can’t cope with the strain, forests are lost and water is becoming a precious resource to be fought over in an ever more polluted world.