Changes in Water Balance in The Arctic To Have Implications For Global Climate

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The Arctic region (North Pole), which is the second largest desert in the world after Antarctica (the South Pole), is home to some of our world´s largest fresh water resources. ACIA (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment) Chapter 6, Cryosphere and Hydrology (pp. 183-242), discusses changes, development and findings in sea ice, snow cover, glaciers and ice sheets, permafrost, river and lake ice, freshwater discharge, sea-level rise and coastal stability in the Arctic region, identifying critical research needs.

According to ACIA, observational data reveals that sea-ice coverage has decreased by up to 10 % in the past decades, with the largest impact during Arctic summer months. The decline also applies to multi-year ice, the sea ice thickness, and snow covers, while river discharges have expanded, permafrost temperatures have risen, and glaciers are losing significant proportions of mass, especially in Alaska where glacier retreat has been remarkably high since the 1990´s. Model projections carried out by ACIA experts indicate that these developments will continue throughout the 21st century, whereby sea levels are projected to rise due to a combination of many factors leading to climate change and warming in the Arctic region. Furthermore, ACIA reveals that the desolation of arctic glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet will impact sea level rise with several centimeters during this century.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001), has reported that global mean sea levels have risen by 120 meters in the past 20.000 years. Despite of stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will continue to rise for centuries to come. (IPCC, 2013). Moreover, (IPCC, 2013), in the past century glacier melting and ocean thermal expansion have been the main contributors to mean sea levels rising on a global scale. IPCC projects sea level rise to have significant regional patterns now and in distant future. Local sea levels may differ significantly from the global average depending for instance upon changing ocean currents leading to amplification of warming ocean water and altering surface winds.

Learn more by watching EDU-ARCTIC´s video “Mass balance of glaciers”:

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