The Arctic, Earth’s northern polar region, encompasses a vast land that is part of 8 nations: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (i.e. Greenland), Iceland, Canada, Russia, and the United States. The Arctic includes land that extends north of the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Ocean, and the floating mass of ice surrounding the North Pole. Snow and ice cover most of the Arctic land and sea. The southernmost part of the Arctic, separated from the icy North by a wide expanse of tundra is covered by boreal forests. The plants, animals, and people in the far North of the Arctic have adapted to surviving in these extreme conditions. Global warming, or better known as climate change, poses a great threat to all life in the Arctic and the world. The most conservative forecasts don’t even have a positive outlook for the future, as on average, they predict the Earth to warm twice as much in the coming century as it did during the 20th century. Though it is hoped that the Arctic will increase in temperature gradually, it has been known to experience abrupt changes in climate over the mere course of a few years, especially if a certain threshold is crossed. For example, “the likely temperature increase of 3ºC during the 21st century is thought to be sufficient to initiate the widespread and long-term melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Over many centuries, this could eventually result in its complete disappearance and raise global sea level by 7 metres.” (greenfacts.org)
For over 800,000 years, ice has been a permanent feature of the Arctic Ocean. However, from human production of greenhouse gases (because of growing resource use from population growth, causing pollution) average global temperatures have risen tremendously, causing many negative consequences throughout the Arctic. Specifically, studies have shown that the Arctic has been heating up at two to three times the global average. Towards the end of this century, annual average temperatures are projected to rise roughly 3-5°C over the land areas and up to 7°C over the oceans. The people living in the Arctic, as well as the scientists who study the region, have noted drastic changes in the Arctic ecosystem. The most notable change is the rapid rate at which ice, especially floating ice, is melting. This is devastating for people and all species as the ice helps keep our planet’s weather stability and provides an environment to live.
The loss of Arctic ice results in innumerable consequences, including rises in global temperature, rises in sea levels, rises in greenhouse gases, and changing ocean circulations (which could cause climate change in other areas). Firstly, when the reflective ice and snow layer is stripped away, it exposes the dark sea underneath. Both ice and snow reflect the majority (80%) of the sun’s rays, stabilizing the Earth’s temperature. On the other hand, instead of reflecting sunlight radiation harmlessly back into space, the dark blue