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Arctic Tundra 4ºC Hotter Since 1970

Posted by feww on July 30, 2009

Arctic tundra much warmer, darker and more heat absorbent

Parts of Arctic tundra are heating up very rapidly, releasing more greenhouse gases than forecast, accelerating global warming

AMSR-E - 16 sept 2008
The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E), a high-resolution passive microwave Instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows the state of Arctic sea ice on September 10 in this file image released September 16, 2008.  REUTERS/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio/Handout/Files

Parts of Arctic tundra are heating up very rapidly, releasing more greenhouse gases than forecast and accelerating the rate of global warming, said Professor Greg Henry of the University of British Columbia on July 29, 2009.

df 2 manitoba
Thermokarst ponds and drunken forest, Churchill, Manitoba. The thawing of ice-rich permafrost causes subsidence of the land surface, creating ponds and causing trees to tilt, which is shown in this peatland terrain. [Latitude: 58.665 Longitude: -94.034] Physiographic Region: Shield (Lowlands). Photo: Lynda Dredge. Geological Survey of Canada.

Henry said also said higher temperatures are encouraging the spread of larger plants across the tundra, areas normally covered by small shrubs, grasses and lichen. The denser plant cover indicates that the region is getting darker and therefore absorbing more heat.

Tundra covers about 15 percent of Earth’s surface, making up about 30 percent of Canadian territory, Reuters reported Henry as saying.

Henry said for more than three decades he had measured “a very substantial change” in the tundra,  which has been caused by greater emissions and plant growth.

“Since 1970, he said, temperatures in the tundra region had risen by 1 degree Celsius per decade — equal to the highest rates of warming found anywhere on the planet.” Reuters reported.

Henry said:

We’re finding that the tundra is actually giving off a lot more nitrous oxide and methane than anyone had thought before,” Henry told reporters on a conference call from Resolute in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut.

We’re really trying to get a handle on this because if (further tests show) that’s true, this actually changes the entire greenhouse gas budget for the North, and that has global implications.

The effects of climate change in Canada’s North and Arctic regions, enhanced  by an overload of greenhouse gases,  are particularly alarming.

“Henry said his research station in Nunavut had recorded record high temperatures virtually every summer since the early 1990s. The warmer temperatures mean plants are growing bigger and faster, while larger species are spreading northward.” Reuters reported.

Henry, who also chairs an international project studying tundra, said:

The tundra is getting a lot weedier all the way around the globe. This has major implications … You’re changing the color of the surface of the earth by making it darker … so the consequence of that is increased warming again.

Most “independent” researchers say the thawing of  permafrost in the Arctic region would release great amounts carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, leading to a faster rate of [exponential] rise in the climate change. Original report by Reuters.

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One Response to “Arctic Tundra 4ºC Hotter Since 1970”

  1. K.P. said

    hey im wondering what is the latitude and longitude of the arctic tundra please and thank you!

    [A map of the AT is posted at http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/tundra-map.html -Moderator]

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