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Arctic Climate Change

8. What changes are expected in specific areas of the Arctic?

  • 8.1 Key impacts in sub-region I: From East-Greenland to Northwest Russia
  • 8.2 Key impacts in sub-region II: Siberia
  • 8.3 Key impacts in sub-region III: From Chukotka to the Western Canadian Arctic
  • 8.4 Key impacts in sub-region IV: Central and East Canadian Arctic and West Greenland

In a region as large as the Arctic, there are significant sub-regional variations in climate. Recent warming has been more dramatic in some regions than in others. Moreover, local features of the natural world and societies create differences in what impacts will occur and which will be most significant locally.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) focuses on four sub-regions and considers a series of key impacts:

  • impacts on the environment, such as changes in habitats and in the geographic spread of plant and animal species,
  • impacts on the economy, such as changes in access to resources, and
  • impacts on people’s lives, such as effects on traditional lifestyles or damage to infrastructure.

More...

8.1 Key impacts in sub-region I: From East-Greenland to Northwest Russia

Over the last 50 years, annual average temperatures have increased by about 1°C (1.8°F) over most land masses of this sub-region, while there has been a cooling of up to 1°C over Iceland and the North Atlantic Ocean.

By the 2090s, model simulations project a further increase of annual average temperatures by around 3-7°C (5.4-10.8°F) in different parts of this sub-region. The Central Arctic Ocean is projected by all models to warm more strongly than any of the four sub-regions. More...

8.1.1 Impacts on the environment are very likely to include northward shifts of plant and animal species, with some tundra areas disappearing from the mainland. Low-lying coastal areas are increasingly likely to be flooded by storm surges as the sea level rises and sea ice retreats. More...

8.1.2 Impacts on the economy are likely to include improved marine access to oil, gas, and mineral resources as sea ice retreats. An increase in North Atlantic and Arctic fish stocks is likely for certain traditional species as well as for species moving in from the south. More...

8.1.3 Impacts on people’s lives include effects on reindeer herding, which is likely to suffer as a result of changing snow conditions. Traditional harvests of animals are likely to become more risky and less predictable. Animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans are likely to emerge. More...

8.2 Key impacts in sub-region II: Siberia

Annual average temperatures over Siberia have increased by about 1-3°C (1.8-5.4°F) over the past 50 years, with most of the warming occurring during the winter.

By the 2090s, model simulations project additional annual average warming of around 3-5°C (5.4-9°F) over land, particularly near the Arctic Ocean. Increases in wintertime temperature are projected to reach 10°C (18°F) or more over the Arctic Ocean. More...

8.2.1 Impacts on the environment are very likely to include significant changes in forests as the climate warms, permafrost thaws, and fire and insect disturbances increase. It is very likely that forests and shrublands will replace tundra in many areas, and that plant and animal species will shift northward. The amount of water carried by rivers will increase. More...

8.2.2 Impacts on the economy are very likely to include a longer navigation season through the Northern Sea Route as a result of sea-ice retreat, giving rise to economic opportunities as well as pollution risks. Access to offshore oil and gas is likely to improve but some activities could be hindered by increased wave action. More...

8.2.3 Impacts on people’s lives already include serious damage to buildings and industrial facilities due to permafrost thawing, which is projected to continue. A shorter river ice season and thawing permafrost are likely to hinder reindeer migration routes, affecting traditional livelihoods of indigenous people. More...

8.3 Key impacts in sub-region III: From Chukotka to the Western Canadian Arctic

Over the last 50 years, annual average temperatures have risen by about 0.5-3°C (0.9-5.4°F) in different parts of this sub-region and winter temperatures even more.

For the 2090s, model simulations project annual average warming of 3-4°C (5.4-7.2°F) over the land areas and Bering Sea, and about 6°C (10.8°F) over the central Arctic Ocean, with most of the warming occurring during the winter. More...

8.3.1 Impacts on the environment include an increased risk of biodiversity loss, particularly in this sub-region since it is currently home to the highest number of threatened plant and animal species in the Arctic. Increasing forest disturbances due to fires and insects are projected, while low-lying coastal areas are expected to experience more frequent flooding. More...

8.3.2 Impacts on the economy will include damage to infrastructure as a result of permafrost thawing and coastal erosion. Reductions in sea ice will improve ocean access to northern coastlines while thawing will reduce the opportunity of land transport in winter. Traditional local economies based on resources that are vulnerable to climate change (such as polar bears and ringed seals) are very likely to be disrupted by rising temperatures. More...

8.3.3 Impacts on people’s lives are very likely to include forced relocation of some villages as a result of coastal erosion brought about by sea-ice decline, sea-level rise, and thawing permafrost. Declines in ice-dependent animal species and increasing risks to hunters threaten the food security and traditional lifestyles of indigenous people. More...

8.4 Key impacts in sub-region IV: Central and East Canadian Arctic and West Greenland

Over the past 50 years, annual average temperatures have increased by roughly 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) over most of the Canadian Arctic and northwest Greenland, while the Labrador Sea remained cold and nearby areas of Canada and southwest Greenland cooled by up to 1°C (1.8°F).

By the 2090s, the entire region is expected to show an average annual warming of up to 3-7°C (5.4-12.6°F), with most of the warming occurring during the winter and over the water. More...

8.4.1 Impacts on the environment are likely to include a continued (record) melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, changing the local environment and raising sea levels globally. Low-lying coastal areas will be more frequently flooded due to rising sea levels and storm surges. More...

8.4.2 Impacts on the economy are likely to include increased shipping through the Northwest Passage as a result of sea-ice retreat, providing economic opportunities while raising the risks of pollution due to oil spills and other accidents. More southerly marine fish species such as haddock, herring, and blue fin tuna could move into the region. Lake trout and other freshwater fish will decline, with impacts on local food supplies as well as on sport fishing and tourism. More...

8.4.3 Some Indigenous Peoples, particularly the Inuit, face major threats to their food security and hunting cultures as reduced sea ice and other warming-related changes reduce availability of and access to traditional food sources. Increases in sea level and storm surges could force the relocation of some low-lying coastal communities, causing substantial social impacts. More...


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