UAF scientists lead Arctic section of State of the Climate report

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists at the International Arctic Research Center are among world experts leading the State of the Climate report, which summarizes global environmental conditions in 2021.

IARC’s Rick Thoman is once again the lead editor of the Arctic chapter, which shares a comprehensive update on the region’s climate indicators, notable weather events and more. Thoman emphasized that the sections on Arctic pollution and glacier change are of particular interest to Alaskans.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists compile the annual report, which was published Aug. 31 by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Several other IARC scientists are authors or co-authors of sections within the Arctic chapter. Below are highlights from their work: 

Tom Ballinger is lead author, Uma Bhatt, John Walsh and Rick Thoman are co-authors of the Arctic Surface Air Temperature section. 

  • Temperatures across mainland Alaska were near or below average during 2021. The North Slope was colder than normal in winter and the Interior was colder than normal in fall.
  • Temperatures in the Arctic basin were not notably different from normal.
  • Canada’s eastern Arctic and Greenland were warmer than normal in most seasons.
  • Northern Eurasia was unusually cool in winter 2021, then unusually warm (again) in spring 2021.
  • Spring 2021 was the fourth warmest on record in the Arctic since 1900.

Gabe Wolken is a co-author of the Glaciers and Ice Caps outside Greenland section.

  • Arctic glaciers were a large contributor to recent sea-level rise. 
  • From 2020 to 2021, glaciers and ice caps lost significant ice throughout the Arctic, especially in Alaska and Canada. 
  • Arctic glaciers and ice caps have consistently lost mass since 2002 at an average rate of about 174 gigatons per year. This amount of loss transferred to the ocean equates to about 1.5 Lake Iliamnas per year.

Uma Bhatt is a co-author of the Arctic Vegetation section. 

  • Vegetation productivity in the Arctic was lower in 2021 than 2020, one of the most productive years. 

Melinda Webster, Vladimir Romanovsky, Skip Walker and Gay Sheffield, all University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers, also contributed to the State of the Climate report. 

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information assembled the report using contributions from more than 530 scientists in over 60 countries.

MORE INFORMATION: Learn more about the State of the Climate report in IARC’s Quick Guide to Climate Reports.