GS Paper 1
Syllabus: Physical Geography (Climate)
Direction: The article highlights the environmental changes in the Arctic, the factors responsible for these changes, their impact and the way ahead.
Context: This year’s assessment of Arctic conditions – the Arctic Report Card, which the US NOAA has produced since 2006, has highlighted rapid environmental changes in the Arctic.
Background: Insights about the circumpolar region are relevant to the conversation about the warming of planet Earth, as the impacts of climate change have been witnessed first in polar regions.
Highlights of the Arctic Report Card:
- Temperatures in the Arctic Circle have been rising much more quickly than the rest of the planet.
- This has transformed the region’s climate into one defined less by sea ice, snow and permafrost and more by open water, rain and green landscapes.
- It has turned the Arctic to be wetter and stormier (rainier), with shifts in its climate and seasons.
- Although 2022 was only the Arctic’s 6th warmest year on record, researchers saw plenty of new signs. For example, a recent heat wave in Greenland.
Factors behind rapid Arctic environmental change:
- Warmer air can hold more moisture.
- Sea ice retreats and storms absorb more open ocean water.
- Storms are passing over warmer water before reaching the Arctic, feeding them with more energy.
Consequences of rapid Arctic environmental change: In the form of combined effects of –
- Physical conditions,
- Responses of biological resources,
- Impacts on infrastructure,
- Decisions influencing adaptive capacities and
- Environmental and international influences on economics and well-being.
- Indigenous expertise needs to be augmented by scientific abilities to reconstruct past environments and to model and predict future changes.
- Decision-makers need to apply this experience and knowledge to help mitigate and adapt to a rapidly changing Arctic.
Conclusion: Addressing unprecedented Arctic environmental changes requires listening to one another, aligning values and collaborating across knowledge systems, disciplines and sectors of society.
- It is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth, bordered by the subarctic, and is a unique area among Earth’s ecosystems.
- Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost (permanently frozen underground ice) containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.
- Life in the Arctic includes zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants and human societies, which have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions.
Q. How does the cryosphere affect global climate? (UPSC 2017)