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State of the Arctic Report

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July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006

Dr. Andrey Proshutinsky
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543

Program Manager: Dr John A. Calder, NOAA Arctic Research

Related NOAA Strategic Plan Goal:
Goal 2. Understand climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond.

The overall goal of the proposed task is to produce an annual report fully assessing the state of the Arctic Ocean. Specific objectives include:
1. Hosting a workshop on the state of the Arctic.
2. Preparing a baseline report on the state of the Arctic.
3. Developing a methodology for an annual reassessment
4. Widely disseminating the report.

The annual assessment was based on data obtained from U.S. and international sources and covers:
1. Atmospheric circulation
2. Surface air temperature and barometric pressure
3. Sea ice concentration, thickness, concentration, and mass balance.
4. Sea ice drift
5. Arctic Ocean circulation, thermohaline structure, and heat content
6. Ocean transport of freshwater, heat and nutrients through major Arctic gateways
7. Sea level
8. Biological activity from primarily productivity to fish to marine mammmals.

The report was produced by a team of experts lead by Jacqueline Richter-Menge (sea ice), James Overland (atmosphere), and Andrey Proshutinsky (ocean). The science advisory team consisted of national and international Arctic experts from universities and government laboratories. To assist in formulating the report we hosted a workshop on the state of the Arctic (This workshop included invited presentations by the team members on the state of key atmosphere, ice, and ocean parameters, as well as small discussion sessions).

The information in this report was disseminated in several ways. It was presented as a peerreviewed article as part of the American Meteorological Society annual climate summary. We also developed a Web site with an electronic version of the report plus an easily accessible, complete representation of all of the reporting activities. Highlights from the annual assessment were and will also be presented at major conferences.

The major project accomplishment is the report describing the Arctic climate. The 2006 NOAA global climate report includes a section with a review of recent Arctic data by an international group of scientists who developed a consensus on the arctic environment information content and reliability. The report highlights data primarily from 2000 to 2005 with a first look at winter 2006, providing an update to some of the data records of physical processes discussed in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA 2004, 2005). Of particular note:

• Atmospheric climate patterns are shifting. The late winter/spring pattern for 2000–2005 had new hot spots in northeast Canada and the East Siberian Sea relative to 1980–1999. Late winter 2006, however, shows a return to earlier climate patterns, with warm temperatures in the extended region near Svalbard.

• Ocean salinity and temperature profiles at the North Pole and in the Beaufort Sea, which changed abruptly in the 1990s, show that conditions since 2000 have relaxed toward the pre-1990 climatology, although 2001–2004 has seen an increase in northward ocean heat transport through Bering Strait, which is thought to impact sea ice loss.

• Sea ice extent continues to decrease. The sea ice extent in September 2005 was the minimum observed in summer during the satellite era (beginning in 1979), marking an unprecedented series of extreme ice extent minima beginning in 2002. The sea ice extent in March 2006 was also the minimum observed in winter during the satellite era.

• Tundra vegetation greenness increased, primarily due to an increase in the abundance of shrubs. Boreal forest vegetation greenness decreased, possibly due to drought conditions.

• There is increasing interest in the stability of the Greenland ice sheet. The velocity of outlet glaciers increased in 2005 relative to 2000 and 1995, but uncertainty remains with regard to the total mass balance.

• Permafrost temperatures continue to increase. However, data on changes in the active layer thickness (the relatively thin layer of ground between the surface and permafrost that undergoes seasonal freezing and thawing) are less conclusive. While some of the sites show a barely noticeable increasing trend in the thickness of the active layer, most of them do not.

• Globally, 2005 was the warmest year in the instrumental record (beginning in 1880), with the Arctic providing a large contribution toward this increase.

Many of the trends documented in the ACIA are continuing, but some are not. Taken collectively, the observations presented in this report indicate that during 2000–2005 the Arctic system showed signs of continued warming. However, there are a few indications that certain elements may be recovering and returning to recent climatological norms (for example the central Arctic Ocean and some wind patterns). These mixed tendencies further illustrate the sensitivity and complexity of the Arctic physical system. They underline the importance of maintaining and expanding efforts to observe and better understand this important component
of the climate system to provide accurate predictions of its future state.

J. Richter-Menge, J. Overland, A. Proshutinsky, V. Romanovsky, J. C. Gascard, M. Karcher, J. Maslanik, D. Perovich, A. Shiklomanov, and D. Walker (2006), Arctic, In: State of the climate report in 2005, Ed. K. A. Shein, Special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorlogical Society, vol. 87, No 6, June 2006.

J. Richter-Menge, J.Overland, A. Proshutinsky, V. Romanovsky, L. Bengtsson, L. Brigham, M. Dyurgerov, J.C. Gascard, S. Gerland, R. Graversen, C. Haas, M. Karcher, P. Kuhry, J. Maslanik, H. Melling, W. Maslowski, J. Morison, D. Perovich, R. Przybylak, V. Rachold, I. Rigor, A. Shiklomanov, J. Stroeve, R. Volker, D. Walker and J. Walsh (2006), State of the Arctic Report, NOAA web site (submitted)

The report was produced under supervision of J. Calder and we have successfully and efficiently interacted in order to complete this work in time and successfully.

The major project results were prepared by a group of experts from USA, Germany, France, Russia, Poland, Canada, and Sweden and the project results were respectively disseminated in these countries. The major project results will be also presented at the AGU 2006 Fall meeting, and AAAS meeting at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Last updated: August 19, 2008

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