"In the Arctic, evidence from satellite data, submarine data, and oceanographic field observations reveal the diminished areal extent, shorter seasonal duration, and extensive thinning of sea ice," the letter said. "Summer sea ice cover in the Arctic has already been reduced in areal extent by 10-20 percent over the last 30 years."
The Arctic region is especially sensitive to global warming because of the reflectivity of ice and cloud cover, the scientists said. Despite slight cooling in some pockets of the Artic, overall the region has experienced substantial warming. Records show that average annual temperatures are 3.5 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in Alaska and Siberia. Siberian winters and temperatures in the western Canadian Arctic, meanwhile, are 7 degrees warmer than before, the letter said.
The scientists also cited the 2001 Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Pierrehumbert served as lead author of this report, which involved the participation of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries. "The IPCC report concluded that the observed global climate changes cannot be accounted for by natural climate forcings alone;" said the scientists in their letter.
Additional research conducted since 2001 has strengthened the IPCC's findings, according to Martin and her colleagues. "In 2005, the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum with members from eight nations, including the United States, referenced the findings of the IPCC Third Assessment Report in their Arctic Climate Assessment and added that 'there is new and strong evidence that in the Arctic much of the observed warming over this period [the last 50 years] is also due to human activities."
Taking into account increasing temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide, along with fundamental climate theory, the scientists observe that global surface temperature is currently unstable, or, in scientific terms, "not in a steady state," nor will it be for years to come. The planet is, as a result, committed to a continued trend in global warming for centuries to come, according to the scientists.
"Immediate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions well beyond those that may be considered by some measures 'sustainable' emissions rates are therefore imperative. We urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to acknowledge the threat of Arctic warming on the Polar Bear."
Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
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