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Arctic air hits highest temperatures since 1900

December 16, 2015

A new climate change report has said the Arctic is experiencing dramatic changes, with a chief scientist warning that the effects could be widespread. Walruses and fish have also been hit exceptionally hard.

An aging walrus sits on a thin, melting platform of ice.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Air temperature in the Arctic is "the highest since records began in 1900," a scientific report published Tuesday said. The report comes just days after reaching the Paris Climate Agreement.

"Warming is happening more than twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world. We know this is due to climate change," National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) chief scientist Rick Spinrad told reporters in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The NOAA published Tuesday's report.

The study said the average annual air temperature, which was measured over land between October 2014 and September 2015, marked a three degree Celsius (5.4 degree Fahrenheit) increase since the beginning of the 20th century.

Additionally, the study said snow cover in the month of June has been dropping by 18 percent per decade, and was at the second lowest level in North America and Eurasia since records began in 1967.

Reduced snow cover means that the earth absorbs more sunlight, which in turn heats up the land and increases the overall temperature.

Climate changing ecosystems

"We also know what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic," the chief scientist said.

"The decline in sea ice is dramatically changing the habitat for walruses - large marine mammals that traditionally use sea ice for mating, giving birth to young, finding food and shelter from storms and predators."

The loss of habitat for the walruses has led to overcrowding and difficulty in finding food, the report said further.

Fish have also been hit hard. The report found that fish are on "a northward movement…into Arctic waters," which poses survival challenges for other Arctic fish in the region.

smm/gsw (AFP, AP)