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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate trends in the Arctic as observed from space

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The Arctic is a region in transformation. Warming in the region has been amplified, as expected from ice‐albedo feedback effects, with the rate of warming observed to be ∼0.60 ± 0.07°C/decade in the Arctic (>64°N) compared to ∼0.17°C/decade globally during the last three decades. This increase in surface temperature is manifested in all components of the cryosphere. In particular, the sea ice extent has been declining at the rate of ∼3.8%/decade, whereas the perennial ice (represented by summer ice minimum) is declining at a much greater rate of ∼11.5%/decade. Spring snow cover has also been observed to be declining by −2.12%/decade for the period 1967–2012. The Greenland ice sheet has been losing mass at the rate of ∼34.0 Gt/year (sea level equivalence of 0.09 mm/year) during the period from 1992 to 2011, but for the period 2002–2011, a higher rate of mass loss of ∼215 Gt/year has been observed. Also, the mass of glaciers worldwide declined at the rate of 226 Gt/year from 1971 to 2009 and 275 Gt/year from 1993 to 2009. Increases in permafrost temperature have also been measured in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere while a thickening of the active layer that overlies permafrost and a thinning of seasonally frozen ground has also been reported. To gain insight into these changes, comparative analysis with trends in clouds, albedo, and the Arctic Oscillation is also presented. This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Modern Climate Change
Location map of the Arctic region including average sea ice extent (yellow line), sea ice cover during record minimum in summer of 2012 (shades of white), continuous and discontinuous permafrost (shades of pink), glacier locations (gold dots), and snow‐cover (average location of 50% snow line in black and maximum snow line in green as inferred from moderate‐resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) data).
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Monthly anomalies of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) indices for (a) each month and (b) each winter (December, January, February, and March) the period 1979–2012.
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(a) Monthly anomalies of cloud fraction in the Arctic (>60°N) over (a) ice covered; (b) ice free ocean areas; (c) sea ice; (d) Greenland; (e) Eurasia; and (f) North America.
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Multiyear averages of advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) narrow‐band albedo (normalized to range from 0 to 1) from (a) 1982 to 1996 and (b) 1997 to 2012; (c) difference of (a) and (b). (d) Color‐coded trend map for the period 1982–2012. Average monthly albedo over land and sea ice from 1982 to 2012 for (e) April and (f) May.
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(a) Circum‐Arctic view of mean annual ground temperature (MAGT) in permafrost during the International Polar Year (IPY 2007–2009); (a) active‐layer change in nine different Arctic regions according to the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program. The data are presented as annual percentage deviations from the mean value for the period of observations (indicated in each graph). Solid red lines show mean values. Dashed gray lines represent maximum and minimum values. Thaw depth observations from the end of the thawing season were used. The number of CALM sites within each region varies and is indicated in each graph. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 101. Copyright 2012 John Wiley and Sons; Ref 96. Copyright 2012 The Northern Publisher Salckhard)
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(a) Maps of annual maximum melt extent constructed from moderate‐resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) IST data of the Greenland ice sheet for the study period (March 2000 through August 2012). The nonice sheet covered land surrounding the ice sheet is shown in green. The boundaries of the six major drainage basins of the Greenland ice sheet are superimposed on the maps. (b) Extent of maximum melt in each melt season as derived from the MODIS IST data record; colors relate to those shown in (a). Note the large amount of melt in 2012 that lasted for >2 days. The melt extent in 2002 is also notably large. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2007 United States Government as represented by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
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(a) Years with maximum and minimum snow cover; data from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Light blue represents snow cover in February of 1978 and dark blue represents snow cover in February of 1982 and white is snow in both years. (b) Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the spring, (c) Eurasian snow cover in the spring, and (d) North American snow cover in the spring, all showing declining trends in snow‐cover extent during the satellite snow‐mapping era.
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(a) Color‐coded average sea ice concentration map for (a) the period from January 1979 to December 1995; and (b) the period from January 1996 to December 2012. (c) Differences (for each pixel) of averages in (a) with averages in (b). (d) Trend map of sea ice concentration from January 1979 to December 2012. (e) Plots of daily averages of sea ice extent for the period 1979–1995 (in gray), sea ice extent from 1996 to 2012 (in black), difference of sea ice extent between the two periods (in gold, bottom plot); and daily sea ice extent for individual years in 1980 (when summer minimum was highest, in red), 2007 (when summer minimum was second lowest, in green) and 2012 (when summer minimum was a record low, in blue); (f) Ice extents and trends of yearly averages of sea ice extent (purple line), perennial ice (in blue), and multiyear ice (in green) for the 1979–2012 period using SMMR and SSM/I data. Also similar plots from AMSR‐E data from 2003 to 2012 (gold) are presented for perennial and multiyear ice.
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(a) Color‐coded surface temperature trends for the entire Arctic using August 1981–November 2012 advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) data; (b) plots of yearly anomalies and trends for the entire globe (black) and for the Arctic region (>64°N) using Hansen (2010) (blue) and AVHRR (red) data; and plots of anomalies (blue), 1‐year running average (red) and linear trend (black) for (c) sea ice; (d) Greenland; (e) Eurasia, >64°N; (f) North America, >64°N; and (g) SST, >60°N.
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