This very personal article by a professor of geography who specialises in Arctic studies describes, with an accompanying satellite time-lapse images video, the thinning and retreat of Arctic sea ice over the last few decades and the related effects on the adjacent permafrost and tundra regions on land of the warming causing these rapid effects. Prof. Mark Serreze, DIrector of National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, was initially sceptical that human activity was behind the rise in temperatures in the Arctic but he writes:
Sometime around 2003, I accepted the overwhelming evidence of human-induced warming, and started warning the public about what the Arctic was telling us. … Today it seems increasingly likely that what is happening in the Arctic will reverberate around the globe. Arctic warming may already be influencing weather patterns in the middle latitudes. Meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet is having an increasing impact on sea level rise. As permafrost thaws, it may start to release carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere, further warming the climate.,,, Scientists are trained to be skeptics, but for those of us who study the Arctic, it is clear that a radical transformation is underway. Indeed, the question is no longer whether the Arctic is warming, but how drastically it will change – and what those changes mean for the planet.
Evidence that the Arctic is warming rapidly extends far beyond shrinking ice caps and buckling roads. It also includes a melting Greenland ice sheet; a rapid decline in the extent of the Arctic’s floating sea ice cover in summer; warming and thawing of permafrost; shrubs taking over areas of tundra that formerly were dominated by sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens; and a rise in temperature twice as large as that for the globe as a whole. This outsized warming even has a name: Arctic amplification.