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 What is Arctic Amplification?


Recently, Finnish Meteorological Institute researchers published their study in the Communications Earth & Environment journal, concluding that the Arctic is heating four times faster than the rest of the planet.

  • The warming is more concentrated in the Eurasian part of the Arctic, where the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway is warming at an alarming rate — seven times faster than the global average.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Arctic amplification?
  2. What are the consequences of Arctic warming?
  3. What is the impact on India?

What is Arctic Amplification?

  • Global warming, the long-term heating of the earth’s surface, hastened due to anthropogenic forces or human activities since pre-industrial times and has increased the planet’s average temperature by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
  • While changes are witnessed across the planet, any change in the surface air temperature and the net radiation balance tend to produce larger changes at the north and south poles.
  • This phenomenon is known as polar amplification; these changes are more pronounced at the northern latitudes and are known as the Arctic amplification.
What causes it?
  • Among the many global warming-driven causes for this amplification, primary causes are:
    • The ice-albedo feedback
    • Lapse rate feedback
    • Water vapour feedback
    • Ocean heat transport
  • Sea ice and snow have high albedo (measure of reflectivity of the surface), implying that they are capable of reflecting most of the solar radiation as opposed to water and land.
  • In the Arctic’s case, global warming is resulting in diminishing sea ice.
  • As the sea ice melts, the Arctic Ocean will be more capable of absorbing solar radiation, thereby driving the amplification.
  • The lapse rate or the rate at which the temperature drops with elevation decreases with warming.
  • Studies show that the ice-albedo feedback and the lapse rate feedback are responsible for 40% and 15% of polar amplification respectively.

What are the consequences of Arctic warming?

  • The causes and consequences of Arctic amplification are cyclical — what might be a cause can be a consequence too.
  • The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate, and the rate of accumulation of sea ice has been remarkably low since 2000, marked by young and thinner ice replacing the old and thicker ice sheets.
  • The unusual summer temperatures resulted in a melt of 6 billion tonnes of ice sheet per day, amounting to a total of 18 billion tonnes in a span of three days, enough to cover West Virginia in a foot of water.
  • Greenlandic ice sheet holds the second largest amount of ice, after Antarctica, and therefore it is crucial for maintaining the sea level.
  • In 2019, this was the single biggest cause for the rise in the sea level, about 1.5 metres. If the sheet melts completely, the sea level would rise by seven metres, capable of subsuming island countries and major coastal cities.
  • The warming of the Arctic Ocean and the seas in the region, the acidification of water, changes in the salinity levels, are impacting the biodiversity, including the marine species and the dependent species.
  • The warming is also increasing the incidence of rainfall which is affecting the availability and accessibility of lichens to the reindeer.
  • The Arctic amplification is causing widespread starvation and death among the Arctic fauna.
  • The permafrost in the Arctic is thawing and in turn releasing carbon and methane which are among the major greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
  • Experts fear that the thaw and the melt will also release the long-dormant bacteria and viruses that were trapped in the permafrost and can potentially give rise to diseases.

What is the impact on India?

  • In recent years, scientists have pondered over the impact the changing Arctic can have on the monsoons in the subcontinent.
    • The link between the two is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
  • A study titled ‘A possible relation between Arctic sea ice and late season Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall extremes’ published in 2021 by a group of Indian and Norwegian scientists found that the reduced sea ice in the Barents-Kara sea region can lead to extreme rainfall events in the latter half of the monsoons — in September and October.
  • The changes in the atmospheric circulation due to diminishing sea ice combined with the warm temperatures in the Arabian Sea contribute to enhanced moisture and drive extreme rainfall events.
  • In 2014, India deployed IndARC, India’s first moored-underwater observatory in the Kongsfjorden fjord, Svalbard, to monitor the impact of the changes in the Arctic Ocean on the tropical processes such as the monsoons.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023