4 consequences of global warming in the Arctic
Global warming in the Arctic doesn't only mean ice sheets melting. Here are 4 other unexpected and terrible consequences of the rise in temperature.
What are the consequences of global warming in the Arctic?
From North America to Siberia, passing through Scandinavia, millions of hectares of forests have gone up in smoke since June 2019. Wildfires deemed of “unprecedented” magnitude by the World Meteorological Organization. Causes include drought, the impact of lightning and high temperatures. Although wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, the latitude, meaning the fact they’re so high up and the intensity of these fires is particularly unusual. The average June temperature in parts of Siberia where the worst of the wildfires are ranging was almost 10°C higher in June than the 1981 to 2000 long-term average. As reported by CAMS, in June 2019 alone, forest fires in the Arctic circle emitted 50 megatons of CO2, as much as the annual emissions of a country like Sweden.
The increase in temperatures, rising twice as fast in the Arctic than elsewhere in the world, changes the very nature of ecosystems as stated by the University of Alaska, 2018. The extent of Arctic sea ice could be divided by 10 by 2050 (according to National Geographic) and trees and bushes are gradually colonizing the tundra, a vast, flat, treeless Arctic region, vital to the survival of some animals, such as reindeer, lemmings, snowy owls…Another difficulty for fauna in the Arctic is drought, which contributes to food scarcity. In July 2019, researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute found 200 reindeer starved to death in the Svalbard archipelago. They couldn’t access food trapped under a layer of ice formed by abundant rainfall. In winter, rain and snow can alternate Sanna Vannar President of the Saminuorra association and form a layer of ice on the ground which stops reindeer being able to reach the lichen they feed on. Reindeer herders are therefore forced to give them fodder. The effects of climate change are felt here and now. It’s not a threat, it’s already real.
Searching for food and milder temperatures, many animals migrate to other regions. According to the AFP. In December 2018, about 50 starving polar bears invaded the area around the capital of the Russian archipelago Nova Zembla. Lacking food in their natural habitat, they were attracted by the smell of garbage. While some bears migrate south to compensate for a lack of food, other animals travel northwards, in search of cooler climates.
Climate change is also melting the permafrost, ground that remains completely frozen, containing many chemical and biological elements. Among these are viruses and bacteria trapped in the ice for thousands of years. In 2016 in Siberia, 2,300 reindeer, and 12 years old Inuit child died following an anthrax infection. Not seen in Siberia for 75 years, the bacteria which caused the infection reportedly came from a thawed reindeer carcass, previously infected. Besides anthrax, other viruses could resurface. In 2014, Franco-Russian researchers found in the ground an unknown giant virus which had remained buried for 30,000 years.