Thinning of the Arctic ‘unprecedented for at least 1,000 years’ – IPCC report

(EurActiv, 26 Sep 2019) The Arctic has lost around 12.8% of its surface area every decade between 1979 and 2018, which, although “unprecedented for at least 1,000 years”, could shrink even more if no action is taken. This is according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). EURACTIV‘s partner le Journal de l’environnement reports.

During the IPCC’s 51st session, it was estimated that Greenland lost an average of 278 billion tonnes of ice each year between 2006 and 2015, twice as much as in 1997-2006.

As for Antarctica, the rate is currently lower (155 billion tonnes of ice per year), but the melting rate has also tripled. This is according to the summary for decision-makers of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere.

The IPCC report was presented at the end of the IPCC’s 51st session, held from 20 to 23 September in Monaco.

The melting of the poles, combined with the melting of high-altitude glaciers, is the leading cause of the sea-level rise. Each year, it causes the sea level to rise by 1.8 millimetres, which is half a total of 3.6 millimetres sea-level rise observed between 2006 and 2015. If Greenland is currently ahead of Antarctica, Antarctica may well catch up by the end of the 21st century.

A thinning of the ice

The Arctic is the region of the world where the effects of global warming are most pronounced. Between 1979 and 2018, sea ice loss has increased, regardless of the month of the year.

“Between 1979 and 2018, Arctic sea ice extent has very likely decreased for all months of the year. September sea ice reductions are very likely 12.8 ± 2.3% per decade. These sea ice changes in September are likely unprecedented for at least 1,000 years. Arctic sea ice has thinned, concurrent with a transition to younger ice. Between 1979 and 2018, the real proportion of multi-year ice that is at least five years old has declined by approximately 90%,” according to the IPCC.

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EurActiv, 26 Sep 2019: Thinning of the Arctic ‘unprecedented for at least 1,000 years’ – IPCC report