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Snow Water Ice and Water and Adaptive Actions for a Changing Arctic

The Arctic is changing fast, and the Arctic Council recently commissioned the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) to write two new reports on the state of the Arctic cryosphere (snow, water, and ice) and how the people and the ecosystems in the Arctic can live with these changes.

The two reports have now just been published and are called Snow Water Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic Update (SWIPA-update) and Adaptive Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA).

I can see why these reports can be a bit confusion, with two reports released at the same time by the same organisation. Actually, there are four parts.

The AACA report consists of three regional reports with an emphasis on the Baffin Bay/Davis Strait region, the Barents region, and the Bering/Beaufort/Chukchi region.

The writing process has involved scientists from the US, Canada, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

The message from these reports is that the Arctic temperatures increase rapidly, in line with the notion of ‘polar amplification’.

The increased temperatures have been accompanied with changes in snow, sea-ice, precipitation, permafrost, icebergs, landice, river runoff, polar lows, synoptic storms, cloudiness, avalanches, ocean circulation, and ocean acidification.

For some of these aspects, there have been clear evidence for changes, such as precipitation, snow, ice, and permafrost. For others, such as polar lows, synoptic storms, and cloudiness, the evidence is more ambiguous.

The number of polar lows and the frequency of fog over the Barents sea, however are believed to diminish as the sea ice cover retreats.

The changing conditions in the Arctic have an impact on both the ecosystems and the people living there.

The AACA report covers social sciences in addition to the atmosphere, the Arctic ocean, and the cryosphere. It provides an update since the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) from 2004 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

The full reports are still not public, so it is only the summaries that are publicly available at the moment. I expect the full reports to be publicly available some time this summer.

I can see why some people think it’s strange that the summary comes before the report, and this has also been an issue with the assessment reports from the IPCC.

Personally, I think it’s better to wait with the summary until everything is ready to avoid misunderstandings about the report writing process. The main reports are more or less finished and it is just the final quality control and checking that remain.

Update 2017-10-12: the full report in now available from the AMAP website.

21 Responses to “Snow Water Ice and Water and Adaptive Actions for a Changing Arctic”

  1. 1
    TW says:

    Yeah, writing the summary before the report kind of lets the cat out of the bag, doesn’t it, about how the conclusions come first, the evidence chosen to fit? And since the Arctic Council is made up of countries, is this the kind of summary that requires governmental approval before it’s finalized, like the AR’s from the IPCC?

  2. 2
    Russell says:

    Arctic cryosphere loss already embodies the problem of accelerating albedo feedback driven by radiative forcing, and arrresting this ominous process may remain beyond the capacity of CO2 policy for decades to come;

    Beyond atmospheric chemistry , this process depends on the color of sea water, and the organisms that bloom in it, and as long as that water is left dark , this harbinger of Anthopocene climate change may be expected to grow.

  3. 3
    Jim Eager says:

    TW: “Yeah, writing the summary before the report kind of lets the cat out of the bag, doesn’t it, about how the conclusions come first, the evidence chosen to fit?”

    Conspiracy ideation in full bloom. As if those who wrote the summary did not base it on the draft report and data. Industrial grade stupid that burns.

  4. 4
    Digby Scorgie says:

    TW @1

    As a retired technical writer, I’m sure the reason is simple: As Rasmus implies in his final sentence, it’s just the final quality control and checking that is the cause of the delay. In any technical report it’s damn damn damn difficult eliminating all typos, cross-reference errors, and so on and so forth. You’ve gone through your report or manual with a fine-tooth comb, you’ve checked and double-checked and checked again, you publish the thing, and then someone points out a stupid typo somewhere. Aargh!

  5. 5
    Walt Meier says:

    I’m a co-lead on the SWIPA sea ice chapter. Rasmus is exactly right on the publication order. The full technical report has essentially been done since August. It’s just been a matter of copy editing, getting final publication quality figures, and obtaining the rights for those figures. The summaries were written over the last few months, based directly on the information in the full report.

    Walt Meier

  6. 6
    climatehawk1 says:

    World’s most confusing headline. How about adding quotes around the titles?

  7. 7

    #1, 3, 4–“Writing” a report does not begin with its release. Duh!

  8. 8
    Susan Anderson says:

    TW, I’m sure you have time on your hands to say things that sound clever but really aren’t, in the service of spreading ignorance and negativity, but you are wasting your time and that of others with this guff.

    What would be more useful is if you became more curious about what is actually going on, and paid better attention to worldwide trends yourself. Arctic Ice is melting (and Greenland and Glaciers, and West Antarctica). Weather extremes are increasing. Species are migrating. Warm seasons are getting longer. In many places (my dooryard in Boston included) sea level is going up, more obviously as time goes on, and in a pattern that shows acceleration (I have photographs I took myself since the early 1980s).

  9. 9
    Susan Anderson says:

    Oh, I forgot, ocean acidification (yes, on the pH scale, a small increase is less basic and more acidic) is on the rise, along with overfishing, bottom scraping, large-scale coral bleaching, and other dangerous developments. And geoengineering won’t fix that at all, so if you’re thinking future magic fixes, forget it.

  10. 10
    Hank Roberts says:

    > TW

    Shorter: Ignoramus, ignorabimus.

    Line up enough of these guys with their heads buried in the sand, and they’ll make a seawall.

  11. 11
    mikeworst says:

    Exactly Susan. Got any real data to back-up your assertions? Thought not.

  12. 12
    nigelj says:

    TW @1

    “And since the Arctic Council is made up of countries, is this the kind of summary that requires governmental approval before it’s finalized, like the AR’s from the IPCC?”

    It might be. For the sake of my comments just assume it is.

    You sceptics appear to believe politicians want the IPCC (and similar) reports worded as strongly or alarmist as possible, but I think it would be the reverse. I think the IPCC report understates concerns about climate change, ie its at least moderately conservative.

    Consider IPCC reports have to be signed off by a range of countries and their politicians. Some of these countries are sceptical about climate change, eg Russia, Australia, America under at least some presidents, oil producing countries, and others. All these politicians could want the findings of the IPCC to be played down, ie understated and conservative. And these countries would have a lot of influence in the process as they tend to be powerful countries.

    Some of the smaller countries deeply susceptible to sea level rise would probably want the IPCC reports to be as strong as possible, but these countries don’t have much political or economic power in many cases, so not much influence in the IPCC process.

    Other countries probably have a more neutral position.

    In fact I have read several articles, where it’s been noted that the findings of IPCC scientists have been understated and watered down.

    In “summary” different countries will have different biases and to some extent it will balance out, but not entirely. I think it leads to conservative, understated reports.

    And what is your alternative? It would be great if these reports were purely the work of scientists and not signed off by politicians, but sadly that’s not the way things work. So many things get politicised, sadly.

    The trouble with a lot of you sceptics is you just don’t think or read widely enough. Get your acts together. I’m just an interested lay person, but I’m light years ahead of you knuckle dragging sceptics.

  13. 13
    Omega Centauri says:

    Any discussion of landslide and mudflows? I imagine a lot of frozen sloping terrain, has been spared such events, because frozen ground has pretty high shear strength. Could be both messy and hazardous if these sorts of events become common. Also it could feedback into the carbon cycle?

  14. 14
    Alastair McDonald says:

    In their final recommendations under “Limit Future Change” they write:

    Full implementation of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will cause Arctic temperatures to stabilize—at a higher level than today—in the latter half of this century.

    Surely that implies that the Arctic sea ice is doomed, and that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet will accelerate.

    Is that just too horrific for them to contemplate?

  15. 15
    b fagan says:

    Omega Centauri @13 – in Alaska, has a July 2014 article titled “Sliding mass threatens pipeline, Dalton Highway”. The geologists named probably have updates.

    “An immense glacier-like mass of soil and rock is inching its way toward the Dalton Highway, threatening to cut off the only access road to the North Slope and putting the trans-Alaska oil pipeline at risk.

    The slow-moving mass of earth is known as a frozen debris lobe, a term coined by geologists Ronald Daanen and Margaret Darrow. Daanen, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks, is now with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Darrow, formerly with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, is an associate professor of geological engineering at UAF.

    There are 23 such features in the Brooks Mountain Range in the direct vicinity of the Dalton Highway. The debris lobe most closely scrutinized by researchers is pushing its way down the hillside to the east of the roadway at 219 Mile of the haul road.”

  16. 16
    b fagan says:

    @13 I should have taken a moment and looked beyond the news article. The researchers have set up a web site about the frozen debris lobes at

  17. 17
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    “Increasing evidence is emerging that the policy summaries on climate impacts and mitigation by the UN Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were significantly ‘diluted’ under political pressure from some of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, including Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil and the United States.

    Several experts familiar with the IPCC government approval process for the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ (SPM) reports – documents summarising the thousands of pages of technical and scientific reports for government officials – have spoken out about their distortion due to political interests.

    According to David Wasdell, who leads on feedback dynamics in coupled complex global systems for the European Commission’s Global System Dynamics and Policy (GSDP) network, “Every word and line of the text previously submitted by the scientific community was examined and amended until it could be endorsed unanimously by the political representatives.” (…)

    Stavins’ remarks were also backed up by Oxford University’s Prof John Broome, a IPCC WG3 lead author:

    At our IPCC meeting, they treated the SPM as though it were a legal document rather than a scientific report. To achieve consensus, the text of the SPM was made vaguer in many places, and its content diluted to the extent that in some places not much substance remained.”

    Far from being too alarmist, these criticisms suggest that the IPCC’s summary reports are too conservative. Like Wasdell, Broome describes how “a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia” at the April approval session in Berlin “insisted” that all “figures” depicting increases of greenhouse gas emissions in countries classified by ‘income group’ “should be deleted.”

    Saudi Arabia, he said, also “wanted to delete all references to any part of the main report that mentioned income groups… in the end Saudi Arabia got its way completely.”

    According to the Sydney Morning Herald, other countries leading the drive to dilute the document included China, Brazil and the United States.”

  18. 18
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    In other words: to describe the IPCC as “alarmist”, as a lot of politicians, media and climate ignorants do, is simply a distortion of the facts. Facts are that the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change is being largely ignored, and more and more so, by the world’s leaders and elites, who want us all to just go on producing, buying and consuming ever more and more – as if that was possible.

  19. 19
    Dan Salkovitz says:

    re: 18. With a huge assist from the media such as the New York Times which continue to play the false equivalency card with regards to climate change and science as a whole. During the past presidential election climate change was barely discussed except once or twice in Democratic rallies.

  20. 20
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    As of this morning the EPA’s global warmig information page is off line and has been replaced with a page containing the following statement.

    “We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.”

  21. 21
    Thomas says:

    What’s interesting to me is that only one comment #14 spoke about the actual contents of these reports.

    While Rasmus’s focus (and motivation?) appears on the surface to only be about the process of summaries before the full reports “…. to avoid misunderstandings about the report writing process.

    I also say that seems to be the case because Rasmus barley mentions the multiple key take away messages contained in the SWIPA Summary eg

    Two weeks later and this article is still a non-event on RC and next to nothing out in the public domain. What does that indicate?

    I wonder how few people have taken the time to read the linked summaries?

    The quotes below suggest a very different level of importance in the contents of this scientific work.

    Since 2011, evidence for the Arctic’s evolution toward a new state has grown stronger.

    Today’s Arctic is a new environment, evolving rapidly and in unexpected ways.

    These feedbacks amplify warming well beyond the effects caused by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations alone.

    … warming in the Arctic is concentrated close to the Earth’s surface, slowing the rate at which heat is lost to space from the top of the atmosphere.

    Water vapor (a powerful greenhouse gas) also provides a warming feedback.

    Increases in freshwater flow into the ocean affect ocean circulation, ocean acidification (see AMAP’s 2013 report on Arctic Ocean acidification), and biological productivity, and affect weather patterns far to the south.

    With the warming already committed in the climate system plus the additional warming expected from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the Arctic will experience significant changes during this century even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized globally at a level lower than today’s.

    While the (HYPOTHETICAL) Paris Agreement, if implemented, would limit the extent to which the Arctic climate changes, the Arctic environment in 2100 would still be substantially different from that of today.
    1) Stabilize temperature at 5–9°C above the 1986–2005 average over the Arctic Ocean in winter.
    2) Reduce global sea-level rise from 2006–2100 by more than 20 centimeters. (next to nothing iow)
    3) Stabilize near-surface permafrost extent at roughly 45% below current values.
    4) Autumn and winter temperatures will increase by a regional average of 4°C over the next 30 years —twice the warming projected for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole—

    The Arctic is expected to be largely free of sea ice in late summer within the next few decades, possibly as early as the 2030s …. (Huh? elsewhere the report says by the LATE 2030s) )

    Sea ice is currently thinning and shrinking more rapidly than projected by most (CLIMATE) models.

    The area of near-surface permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere is projected to decline by 20% relative to today’s area by 2040, and could be reduced by as much as two-thirds by 2080 under a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions.

    The loss of land ice is expected to accelerate after the middle of this century.

    Reductions in sea ice and other changes may affect the amount of Carbon Dioxide absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, while thawing permafrost is expected to increase emissions of methane.

    The Arctic Ocean’s open water season has already increased by 1–3 months over much of the ocean since the late 1970s

    The bearing capacity of building foundations has declined by 40–50% in some Siberian settlements since the 1960s

    The vast Bovanenkovo gas field in western Siberia has seen a recent increase in landslides related to thawing permafrost.

    Thawing permafrost may also contaminate freshwater resources when previously frozen industrial and municipal waste is released.

    Food webs are affected by changes in the structure of ecological communities and shifts in the geographic ranges of species.

    …. and on and on this one report goes.

    Nothing to see here or comment upon (apparently).

    Changes in the Arctic affect the rest of the world, not
    only in obvious ways (such as the Arctic’s contribution to
    sea-level rise), but through the Arctic’s role in the global
    climate system, its influence on ocean circulation, and its
    impacts on mid-latitude weather.

    Changes in Arctic sea ice cover, marine ecosystems,
    and the water cycle affect the amount of carbon dioxide
    that the Arctic Ocean absorbs from the atmosphere. The
    ocean becomes more acidic as it absorbs more carbon
    dioxide, with potential implications for marine life.
    Changes in snow cover and permafrost also affect carbon
    and nitrogen cycling, as well as methane emissions.