Human-caused climate change is rapidly transforming the Arctic, and Arctic residents are now coping with effects more characteristic of other regions, like typhoons, wildfires and increased rain.
Those were some of the findings of the annual Arctic Report Card, produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad said the changes are visible in diminished sea ice, plankton blooms, mass seabird die-offs, coastal erosion and damage to Arctic communities.
“I cannot overstate this, but rapid warming in the Arctic is profoundly affecting the more than 400,000 Indigenous people who live there, and in many instances is upending their entire way of life,” said Spinard.
This year, for the first time, the Arctic Report Card has a chapter on the impact to Indigenous people. Jackie Schaeffer, climate initiatives director at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, is one of the authors.
She said Native people are seeing in their lifetime the kind of change that used to occur over many generations. Schaeffer, who is originally from Kotzebue, said the fact that her people have endured is a reason for optimism.
“That I could still fill my freezers and eat the food that my ancestors have eaten for 20,000 years is hopeful,” she said. “I want to make sure that that partnership with science is there so that for the next 500 generations, we have that same hope.”
The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, and the Arctic report card documents a variety of indicators. In the past year, Arctic surface air temperatures were the sixth warmest since 1900. The report card authors say the last seven years are collectively the warmest seven years since the start of the last century.