The South Pole and Svalbard are Getting Hit Hard by Climate Change

There was bad new on the climate change front this week as we’ve learned that two locations that we suspected would be hit hard by warming temperatures are actually finding that the mercury is rising even faster than expected. This could be an indication that we’ve already approached the tipping point that scientists have been warning us about for decades, possibly sending our planet into a warming trend from which there may not be any way to reverse.

The first story comes via a new report that indicates that the South Pole has seen a record setting warming trend over the past three decades. We’ve known for years that Antarctica was losing ice at an alarming rate along its edges, but many researchers had thought that the South Pole was actually immune to the impact of climate change. Due to its remote nature and  the vast snow and ice fields that surround it, it seemed unlikely that things would change much there. But researchers now say that the South Pole has seen a steady increase in temperature from 1989 to 2018, during which time it warmed at a rate three times that of the planet’s average.

The cause of these warming temperatures is a bit complicated, and starts in the South Pacific. As air temperatures in that part of the world rose, it caused the air pressure in the Weddell Sea to decrease. This has in turn allowed warmer air to blow across the Antarctic continent, resulting in the changes that researchers are currently observing. The study is an indication of just how complex and interrelated the various parts of our planet can be.

Meanwhile, another research project has determined that the remote Norwegian island of Svarbald is also experiencing unprecedented warming. The town of Longyearbyen on Svalbard has been at the epicenter of climate change for some time, with temperatures increasing at a much faster rate than the rest of the planet. New data shows that this trend is not only continuing, but accelerating as the region is now said to be warming at a rate of seven times that of the Earth’s average. The study spans decades, beginning in 1898 and running through 2018, although the largest rise in temperature has taken place over the past three decades.

What does this mean from a practical sense? According to the study, the number of cold days that occur annually in Svalbard has been cut in half over the past 20 years. Over the past 50 years, the arctic island has lost two months of winter weather. Those are significant and measurable changes that have occurred in a relatively brief span of time, particularly as far as the Earth is concerned. The fact that the changes are coming at a faster rate should be alarming to everyone.

Certainly the global pandemic has taken center stage in terms of the concerns that we all have about the current state of the world. But chances are, we’ll find ways to treat that virus and hopefully create a vaccine in the near future. Eventually, our lives will go back to some sense of normalcy, whatever that might look like in a post-pandemic world. But climate change still poses the biggest threat to mankind’s future, and from the looks of things, it is a fight that we simply aren’t winning right now.

Kraig Becker