Air temperature in the Arctic was -19.25°C on 2023-03-23. This is 0.15°C higher than 90th percentile of climatology period... READ MORE
Air temperature in the Arctic was -19.28°C on 2023-03-22. This is 0.27°C higher than 90th percentile of climatology period... READ MORE
Today the final synthesis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 6th Assessment Report cycle was released. This synthesis report restates that it is "now or never" to act, and that we are well on... READ MORE
Arctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.62 million square kilometres (5.64 million square miles) on March 6, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at... READ MORE
Tropical cyclone Freddy is set to make more international records--including possibly one for the longest-lasting storm, later this... READ MORE
CO2 Budget Depletion
Rapid Arctic warming and melt are amplifying existing threats to Arctic communities, as well climate-vulnerable areas around the world.
The Arctic itself is also a climate vulnerable region, affected first and worst by climate change. To find out how rapid Arctic warming is affecting Arctic communities please see our SDG pages where we highlight how each of the SDG issues is experienced in the Arctic.
Here we look at the global risks of Arctic change and present regional case studies (linked below) which highlight major issues affecting some of the most climate vulnerable regions around the world, showing how the influence of a warming Arctic far exceeds its geography.
The Arctic has warmed four times faster than the global average since 1979 (Rantananen et al., 2022).
This rate, reaching seven times faster in parts of the Eurasian Arctic, is caused by Arctic amplification. While Arctic amplification is significantly driven by the loss of sea ice and northern hemisphere snow cover, Arctic amplification increases ice sheet melt, accelerating sea level rise, as well as further hastening sea ice and northern hemisphere snow cover losses, contributing to the Arctic wildfire seasons and permafrost thaw. Arctic warming is increasing carbon emissions from fire and permafrost degradation, a process not well captured by global climate models
Rapid Arctic warming increases global risks in many ways:
Arctic warming enhances the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, ecosystem disruption and sea levels. These challenges are illustrated through loss of productivity, food and water insecurity, supply chain disruptions and high risks of sovereign defaults among others (Cevik and Jalles, 2022). Research estimates that by 2100 the overall economic impact of the loss of Arctic summer sea ice and thawing permafrost will be about US$70 trillion, assuming 3°C of temperature rise. If mitigation measures are stringent enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, these estimated economic impacts are reduced to about US$25 trillion of global wealth (Yumashev et al., 2019).
The latest science links Arctic climate change to extreme weather across the Northern Hemisphere with more certainty than ever before (Francis et al., 2022). Events exacerbated by Arctic warming throughout this expanse include wildfires, drought, heat waves, persistent cold, and persistent rainfall leading to flooding. One key factor is that a warmer Arctic is associated with a wavier jet stream through reduced differences in temperature between the Arctic and the more southerly latitudes that drive hemispheric air circulation. This wavier pattern means that areas of high and low pressure can stall, bringing both persistent dry weather (as seen throughout Europe and Asia this summer and autumn) as well as long-duration rain events, most notable this season in Pakistan.
Extreme drought and heat make wildfires more likely, examples of which have been experienced in western U.S. states and also across Europe in recent years (e.g. Poyau, 2022). Heatwaves cause loss of life and productivity, as can extreme cold waves, such as that in 2021 in Texas that resulted in at least US$20 billion in damages and nearly 150 deaths.
In September 2022, four tropical cyclones, Fiona, Merbok, Nanmadol and Muifa, continued a summer of record-setting extreme weather events. Together, these four storms caused billions of dollars in damages and ruined thousands of lives. While each was born in the tropics, their destruction has also affected high-latitude areas not accustomed to the consequences of such storms. A warmer Earth combined with a moister atmosphere — from a thicker blanket of greenhouse gases and vicious feedback cycles involving the loss of Arctic ice and snow — make these storms more powerful, and allow them to stay stronger as they head northward. Higher sea levels, also accelerated by a warming Arctic, expand the inland reach of storm surges and flooding. If we do nothing to curtail the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we can expect to see more intense storms.
For more information see our Regional Stories and Extreme Weather pages.
Loss of Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover on land drive global heat stress, making already-hot parts of the world unbearable for living and working. Arctic amplification of global warming can alter jet stream patterns, which in 2022 led to extended periods of heat stress throughout much of Europe and Asia. Elsewhere, by 2050, Southeast Asia could see a 16% reduction in labour productivity because of the rise in heat stress (Verisk Maplecroft, 2017).
According to data from the European Drought Observatory, in summer 2022 63% of European Union and United Kingdom land – approximately the size of India – were given drought warnings or alerts (Said-Moorhouse and Dewan, 2022).
For more information see our Regional Stories and Heat Stress pages.
A warming planet contributes to the spread of disease. For vector-borne diseases, seasonal vectors (e.g. ticks in North America) are able to reproduce more efficiently and expand habitats with longer shoulder seasons. In addition to generalised warming, warmer atmospheres are able to hold more moisture (IPCC AR6 WG1, 2021), providing more breeding grounds and favourable conditions for pathogens like malaria and cholera. Despite a 40% reduction of malarial deaths in the past twenty years, more than 562,000 people die annually, 96% from the African continent. Direct costs associated with lost productivity top US$12 billion.
In other cases, changing environments increase the likelihood of animal-human disease spread, the spread of disease across geographies, the growth of toxic algae blooms that damage water access, and the spread of moulds that can damage the lungs and brain.
Research published in August 2022 details how Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise is significantly greater than models have forecasted, confirming the scientific foundation for catastrophic coastal flooding for more than a billion people around the world – the vast majority of whom are unprepared (Kulp and Strauss, 2022). The two decades of direct measurements that comprise this study enable precise calculation of the ice sheet’s future in ways we have yet not previously understood (Box, Hubbard et. al., 2022), setting an absolute minimum sea level rise commitment from Greenland above 27cm, a figure set only to grow as climate warms
“It’s an understatement that the societal stakes are high and the risk is very real going forward”
Professor Alun Hubbard
Rapid Arctic warming speeds up melting of the Greenland ice sheet that contains the equivalent of 7.4m of sea level rise, and for the past two decades has been the single largest contributor to rising sea levels. Almost 600 million people live in coastal zones worldwide. As sea levels rise, they will be increasingly vulnerable, threatening approximately US$1 trillion of global wealth. High population tropical cities like Jakarta, key grain producing regions like the Mekong river delta and low lying states in the Pacific Region and the Caribbean are extremely vulnerable as well as other coastal areas facing the threat of saltwater intrusion such as Egypt.
For more information see our Regional Stories and Sea Level Rise pages.
Arctic warming brings more extreme weather events, land degradation and desertification, water volatility, rising sea levels, and shifting climates – all of which hamper efforts to feed the planet and increase the risk of simultaneous harvest failures across the breadbasket regions of the world (Kornhuber et al., 2020).
Arctic change has been linked to droughts, floods, storms and other extreme weather events that pose a direct threat to global food supplies (Francis et al., 2022). Our case studies highlight unprecedented drought in eastern Africa, Vietnam and India that have resulted in acute malnutrition, food shortage and humanitarian crises (e.g. Euronews, 2022).
For more information see our Regional Stories and Food Insecurity pages.
Sea level rise from melting glaciers in Greenland not only causes land mass loss but saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies also threatens water security, as highlighted in our Pacific region stories. Extreme drought, such as that experienced in Europe in summer 2022 also had a huge impact on water availability. Other areas also at risk include Africa, South East Asia and the west coast of the USA..
For more information see our Regional Stories and Water Insecurity pages.
The Arctic plays a bigger role in the success of all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals than has ever been considered. To achieve the SDGs we need the Arctic.
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.