Arctic heating outpaces global average

The 2014 Arctic report card revealed that the region is heating at twice the rate of the global average. The research includes satellite and in situ observations of air temperatures, ice thickness and extent, and ocean temperatures among other criteria.

While the United States shivered during early 2014, the observations found that the jet stream that pushed the cold air southward into eastern North America, extremely warm air moved northward into Alaska northern Europe. Alaska was more than 10C higher than the average for January.

Snow cover was lower than might be expected, and the snow disappeared earlier than normal because there had been lower accumulations and the temperatures were higher than normal for spring.

The report card showed that sea ice minimum in September 2014 was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. Earlier in the year, the sea ice maximum in March 2014 had shown a slight increase in ice thickness compared with 2013. Recent CryoSat measurements for autumn 2014 show slight decrease for in volume for that period year-on-year, but its lead scientists warn that more information and observations are necessary to deduce long-term trends since CryoSat has been operational only since 2010.

An additional visualisation of sea ice age, created by NOAA based on information from researcher Mark Tschudi at the University of Colorado, Boulder, shows that sea ice in the Arctic is much younger - persisting through fewer seasons - than a few decades ago. The data is from the period 1987-2014.

The condition of the Greenland ice sheet, and of Arctic sea ice was also examined for the Polar Portal report in 2014. The portal, a combined resource of research from Danish institutions, found that melting of the Greenland ice sheet was above average - contributing 1.2mm to global sea levels, while sea ice had thickened. The sea ice had reached thickness comparable to ten years ago, but much thinner than in the decades before that. Melting of the ice in the central Arctic began one week later than average. Declining sea ice leads to phytoplankton blooms because there is more sunlight available for photosynthesis in the top layers of the ocean.

NOAA also found that that sea surface temperature (SST) in the Arctic Ocean was higher once the ice retreated.  Information on sea ice and SST products is available from the Ocean and Sea Ice Satellite Application Facility (OSI SAF).