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Despite the fact that summer 2009 had more sea ice than in the previous 2 years, drastic changes have taken place in the Arctic during the past 5 years faster than scientists anticipated. That is the finding of the Arctic Report Card, a collaborative effort of 71 national and international scientists.
"The Arctic is a special and fragile place on this planet," said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. "Climate change is happening faster in the Arctic than any other place on Earth – and with wide-ranging consequences," said the NOAA Administrator. "When I visited the northern corners of Alaska's Arctic region earlier this year," she said, "I saw an area abundant with natural resources, diverse wildlife, proud local and native peoples – and a most uncertain future."
Among the changes highlighted in the 2009 update to the report card were: a change in large scale wind patterns affected by the loss of summer sea ice; the replacement of multi-year sea ice by the first-year sea ice; warmer and fresher water in the upper ocean linked to new ice-free areas; a continued loss of the Greenland ice sheet; less snow in North America and increased run-off in Siberia, and the effect of the loss of sea ice on Arctic plant, animal, and fish species.
First introduced in 2006 by the NOAA's Climate Program Office, the Arctic Report Card established a baseline of conditions in the region at the beginning of the 21st century. The annual updates track and monitor the often quickly-changing conditions in the Arctic. The 2009 update reflects the contributions of an international team of 71 researchers from countries that include the United States, Canada, Belgium, China, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
NOAA Administrator Lubchenco said, "This year's Arctic Report Card underscores the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas pollution and adapting to climate changes already underway."