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Warming of Arctic: Exceptional Warming Over the Barents Area

Context: Parts of the Arctic region near Norway are warming at as much as seven times the rate of warming in the rest of the world, according to a study published on June 15, 2022.

Findings of the Study: 

  • As per the recent study of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in the journal Scientific Reports, the Arctic has recorded extraordinary rates of global heating, up to seven times faster than the global average. Such intense warming has never been observed in the Arctic region before, and it hints at not just the future of other regions of the northern pole but is also ominous for the climate of the rest of the world. 
  • As per the study, the region around the northern Barents Sea has been warming two to two-and-a-half times the average warming of the Arctic region and five to seven times the warming in the rest of the world.
  • In just the last 20 years, the average temperature northeast of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard has increased by more than five degrees Celsius. The new results surpass everything we know regarding observed temperature changes. Nowhere else on the globe does it seem to have greater warming than just across the northern Barents Sea. 
  • Isaksen also highlighted that their study clearly documents the connection between the melting of sea ice and the warming. It was already well known that the Arctic is the fastest-warming region in the world, with estimates ranging from two to four times the rate of warming in the rest of the world. This is a closed-loop of melting sea ice and faster warming. As the Arctic region warms, the sea ice melts and exposes the ocean surface below. The surface absorbs more energy than sea ice would have and enhances the warming, making more sea ice melt, forming a feedback loop.

Consequences of the warming of Barents: The Barents Sea warming has a huge impact on the marine ecosystem because of the warming and sea ice loss. The region's warming since the 1980s has resulted in the northward shift and increase in the abundance of Atlantic fish species and a decrease in the abundance of Arctic fish species, according to a September 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.  Apart from the local consequences, the warming of the Barents Sea also led to an extreme snowfall event, often dubbed the 'Beast from the East, across most of Europe in 2018.

The extreme weather events south of the Arctic are linked to the region's warming through the Arctic jet stream. The jet stream is a band of winds flowing on top of the Arctic region that usually keeps the cold Arctic air within the region. But the excessive and rapid warming is causing this jet stream to become wavier, due to which the cold air is interacting more frequently with the warm air from the lower latitudes, leading to extreme weather events.

In India, the Arctic warming has been linked to the sweltering heatwaves in March, April, May and June across most of the northwest, central and some parts of eastern India in 2022. In 2018, the warming northern polar region had also been linked to the unusual and deadly dust storms that killed around 500 people across north India. The exceptional warming (of the Arctic) could lead to more extreme weather in North America, Europe and Asia.

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