Arctic air temperatures are at their highest since 1900, and several other disquieting changes are unfolding in that region, scientists have recently warned.
Apparently, average temperatures measured from January until September above the Arctic surface, which spreads across the North Pole, covering parts of Eurasia and North America, have climbed at their highest value recorded in the last 115 years.
They are currently approximately 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) higher than normal measurements, according to the Arctic Report Card.
This alarming study was shared with the public by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday, December 15.
During the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held in San Francisco between December 14 and 18, NOAA chief scientist Rick Spinrad explained that climate change has been affecting the Arctic area the worst in recent years.
More precisely, the rise in temperatures has been more than twice as rapid in that region of the world than in other places, and the surface of ice had dwindled significantly.
As Arctic Ocean water reaches its freezing point, it turns into sea ice, which usually covers the greatest surface in February.
However, according to the NOAA report featured in Geophysical Research Letters, this year, the expanse of ice was at its lowest maximum value reported ever since 1979.
Even more troubling is that this ice consisted mostly of new and thin portions, susceptible to melt more quickly, to cave in or to move more rapidly, spreading litter or pollutants such as oil spills.
Similarly, when the stretch of ice reached its minimum back in September, its extent was the 4th most meager ever since researchers first documented these changes.
The fact that the surface of ice has decreased so significantly is extremely detrimental to marine animals such as walruses, which are usually found close to the Arctic Circle.
They rely on portions of ice, which they can climb so as to leave the freezing water for a while and rest, reproduce or give birth to offspring.
Since the ice extent has become so insufficient and fragile lately, many walruses have been forced to gather on land instead, one such instance having been reported in the northwest region of Alaska.
However, this alternative known as hauling out is actually quite hazardous, since stampedes can form, which can be deadly for juvenile walruses, which are trampled by larger mammals.
Another problem is that while being on shore walruses are at a larger distance from their sources of nourishment, whereas on sea ice they only had to plunge back into the water in order to forage for fish.
One more phenomenon that NOAA researchers have identified is that the expanse of snow measured in June across the sub-Arctic portions of Eurasia and North America has been declining ever since 1979, by as much as 18% every decade.
Levels measured this year were the second lowest reported ever since 1967, and this rapid decrease has severely affected land, making it more susceptible to warming, as it traps more energy from the sun.
Image Source: Flickr