National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

2020 Arctic Report Card Released: 15 years of observations document impact of changing polar climate

December 09, 2020

NOAA’s 15th Arctic Report Card catalogs for 2020 the numerous ways that climate change continues to disrupt the polar region, with second-highest air temperatures and second-lowest summer sea ice driving a cascade of impacts, including the loss of snow and extraordinary wildfires in northern Russia. The sustained transformation to a warmer, less frozen and biologically changed Arctic remains clear. 

The average annual land-surface air temperature in the Arctic measured between October 2019 and September 2020 was the second-warmest since record-keeping began in 1900, and was responsible for driving a cascade of impacts across Arctic ecosystems during the year. Nine of the past 10 years saw air temperatures at least 1 degree C above (2.2 degrees F) the 1981-2010 mean. Arctic temperatures for the past six years have all exceeded previous records.Record warm temperatures in the Eurasian Arctic were associated with extreme conditions in the ocean and on the land.

Sea ice loss in spring 2020 was particularly early in the East Siberian Sea and Laptev Sea regions, setting new record lows in the Laptev Sea for June. The end of summer sea ice extent in 2020 was the second lowest in the 42-year satellite record, with 2012 being the record minimum year. Overall thickness of the sea ice cover is also decreasing as Arctic ice has transformed from an older, thicker, and stronger ice mass to a younger, thinner more fragile ice mass in the past decade. 

PMEL’s Dr. James OverlandDr. Muyin Wang (UW/CICOES), and Dr. Kevin Wood (UW/CICOES) contributed to sections on surface air temperature and sea ice. Dr. Overland is one of three founding editors of the Arctic Report Card and served as a co-editor from 2006 - 2017. Read the full interview about his work in the Arctic and with the Arctic Report Card. 

The Arctic Report Card is an annual compilation of original, peer-reviewed environmental observations and analyses of a region undergoing rapid and dramatic alterations to weather, climate, oceanic, and land conditions. Compiled by 133 scientists from 15 countries, the 2020 report card tracks environmental indicators to inform decisions by local, state and federal leaders confronting a rapidly changing climate and ecosystems.

Check out the visual highlights and the full Arctic Report Card

Read the original NOAA Press Release

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