you doubt that parts of the planet really are warming, talk to
residents of Barrow, the Alaskan town that is the most northerly
settlement in the US
the last 34 years, the average October temperature in Barrow has
risen by more than 7°C − an increase that, on its own, makes a
mockery of international efforts to prevent global temperatures from
rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels.
study by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks analysed
several decades of weather information. These show that temperature
trends are closely linked to sea ice concentrations, which have been
recorded since 1979, when accurate satellite measurements began.
that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the
November increase was far higher − more than six degrees. And
October was the most striking of all, with the month’s average
temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.
Wendler, the lead author of the study and a professor emeritus at
the university’s International
Arctic Research Center,
said he was “astonished”. He told the Alaska
“I think I have never, anywhere, seen such a large increase in
temperature over such a short period.”
study shows that October is the month when sea ice loss in the
Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, which border northern Alaska, has been
highest. The authors say these falling ice levels over the Arctic
Ocean, after the maximum annual melt, are the reason for the
temperature rise. “You cannot explain it by anything else,”
have ruled out the effects of sunlight because, by October, the sun
is low in the sky over Barrow and, by late November, does not appear
above the horizon.
they say, the north wind picks up stored heat from water that is no
longer ice-covered in late autumn and releases it into the
first sight, the team’s findings are remarkable, as Barrow’s
7.2C rise in 34 years compares with a global
average temperature increase over
the past century of up to about 0.8°C. But what’s happening may
be a little more complex.
fact that temperatures in and around Barrow are rising fast is no
surprise, as the Arctic itself is known to be warming faster than
most of the rest of the world.
Panel on Climate Change says
observed warming in parts of northern Alaska was up to 3C from the
early 1980s to the mid-2000s. It also concludes that about
two-thirds of the last century’s global temperature increase has
occurred since 1980.
Barrow’s long-term temperature rise has not been uniform, the
Fairbanks study says. Its analysis of weather records between 1921
and 2012 shows a much more modest average annual rise, of 1.51C. In
2014, the city experienced the coolest summer day recorded −
one conclusion is to remember just how complex a system the climate
is − and how even 34 years may be too short a time to allow for