The Arctic just received its annual report card, and it’s not good

The world’s air conditioner is on the fritz. Unprecedented, record-breaking warmth in the Arctic this year triggered declines in sea ice, snow, the Greenland ice sheet and a remarkable delay in the annual freeze of sea ice in the fall. Overall, the Arctic experienced its warmest year ever recorded.

“Rarely have we seen the Arctic show a clearer, stronger or more pronounced signal of persistent warming and its cascading effects on the environment than this year,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic research program, which released its annual Arctic Report Card on December 13, 2016.

Even more worrisome: The trends are deepening and show no signs of letting up anytime soon. “All signs point to continuing on this trajectory,” Mathis said.

Changes in Arctic climate have now seeped into the winter months, instead of just the summer, Mathis said. “It’s not just the loss of sea ice in the summer, it’s year-round now,” he said.

New research also suggests polar bear numbers are dwindling as the Arctic sea ice melts, and their population could drop by a third over the next 35 years.

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