The story of climate change in the Far North is both obvious and complex: More CO2 in the air means warmer air and land, thus melting ice and thawing earth, thus more vicious feedback circles leading to more melting and all kinds of other changes to the land and its inhabitants. A new part of the story is just how quickly these changes are occurring, several decades sooner than scientists expected, so much so that some experts now speak of the “New Arctic” – a place that is fast becoming significantly different from the Arctic of most of human history. These well-done pieces can bring you up to date on some of these major changes.
Andrew Freedman has an excellent story about this sobering report (Washington Post). Two other good accounts (without paywalls) are by Bob Berwyn (Inside Climate News) and Bob Henson (Yale Climate Connections). Henson quotes one of the report’s editors, Rick Thoman of the University of Alaska Fairbanks: “Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there is no reason to believe that much of anything in 30 years will be as it is today.”
We read a lot about the effects of melting ice. For instance, see this interesting story by Lindsay Bird, CBC News: “The sea ice in northern Labrador is thinning – fast. Here’s why the Inuit are worried.” But we hear less about the big problems that ensue when permafrost thaws – which is to say, the ground itself. For two good overview articles, see “How Thawing Permafrost Is Beginning to Transform the Arctic” (Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360) and “The Arctic is in a death spiral. How much longer will it exist?” (Gloria Dickie, The Guardian, shorter but interactive.)
Each of these stories pays attention to the effects on humans of thawing permafrost while offering different details:
- “Meltdown – The Permafrost that Holds the Arctic Together is Falling Apart” (Susan Nerbert, The Arctic Institute; part of a series)
- “Fighting the feedback loop: why scientists are sounding the alarm on Canada’s melting permafrost” (Ainslie Cruickshank, The Narwhal; includes efforts to act)
- “‘Solastalgia’: Arctic inhabitants overwhelmed by new form of climate grief” (Ossie Michelin, The Guardian)
- “QIKIQTAĠRUK: Almost an Island” (Lauren E. Oakes and Kaisa Reese Ahluniq Kotch, Emergence Magazine; a scientist “listens in” to conversations among three generations of an Iñupiat family in Alaska)
- “Thaw-triggered landslides are a growing hazard in the warming North” (Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today)
Of course animals are also affected by all these changes. A big new database is giving scientists access to much more information (some of it unexpected) about shifting migration patterns: see Mongabay or SciTechDaily.
Perhaps more surprising are consequential changes in the worlds of creatures too small for unaided human eyes – lurking toxins and creatures that are incredibly hardy. (For instance, NYT, “This Tiny Creature Survived 24,000 Years Frozen in Siberian Permafrost.”)
- This piece in Nature about new genomics research is very interesting: “How microbes in permafrost could trigger a massive carbon bomb”
- “Deep Frozen Arctic Microbes Are Waking Up” (Kimberley R. Miner, Arwyn Edwards, Charles Miller, Scientific American)
- “Researchers are finding more signs of dangerous toxins from algae in Alaska wildlife” (Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today)
- “Narwhal Spiraled Tusks Reveal Toxic Mercury Exposure Related to Climate Change” (McGill University, SciTechDaily)
Finally, the geopolitical situation all around the Arctic is also changing in consequential ways. On increased access for shipping, check these two: “Great power competition is racing to the Arctic” (James R. Holmes, The Hill) and “The latest consequence of climate change: The Arctic is now open for business year-round (Jariel Arvin, Vox). On increasing militarization, see this photo-rich overview from The Guardian (Alec Luhn and Louis Palu), and this CNN piece (Nick Paton Walsh) about the Russian buildup.
This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.