The Arctic has long been portrayed as a distant end-of-the-Earth place, disconnected from everyday common experience. But as the planet rapidly warms, what happens in this icy region, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the globe, increasingly affects lives around the world.
On Dec. 14, 2021, a team of 111 scientists from 12 countries released the 16th annual Arctic Report Card, a yearly update on the state of the Arctic system. We are Arctic scientists and the editors of this peer-reviewed assessment. In the report, we take a diverse look across the region’s interconnected physical, ecological and human components.
Like an annual checkup with a physician, the report assesses the Arctic’s vital signs – including surface air temperatures, sea surface temperatures, sea ice, snow cover, the Greenland ice sheet, greening of the tundra, and photosynthesis rates by ocean algae – while inquiring into other indicators of health and emerging factors that shed light on the trajectory of Arctic changes.
As the report describes, rapid and pronounced human-caused warming continues to drive most of the changes, and ultimately is paving the way for disruptions that affect ecosystems and communities far and wide.