Arctic Amplification explains why Arctic warming is twice as fast as global warming

Environment | Tundras and Poles

By Rebecca Hurford, Freelance writer

Published June 5th, 2023

Our global environmental degradation catastrophe is affecting one of Earth's most important ecosystems, the Arctic. The Arctic's core temperature is increasing two times faster than the rest of Earth due to a destructive positive feedback loop that will affect our ecosystems on a local and global scale. Already, humans and animals are feeling the impact of this once very balanced ecosystem melting.

Since the industrial revolution, the planet's core temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees. Each part of the globe experiences different rates of warming. One place in particular where heating has been amplified is the Arctic, which is heating two times faster than the rest of the world. Not only is this change affecting the local communities and wildlife, but also has a much larger wider reaching impact on the rest of the world.

A faster melting of sea ice is putting the Arctic Circle and its boundaries at risk.| NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

A 2022 study by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and published by Nature shows how, in the last 43 years, ‘the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the world’. This knowledge is hugely concerning due to the idea that the Arctic is responsible for maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Many may be curious to understand how the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the globe, in order to contribute to slowing its core temperature acceleration down.

Firstly, the initial reason the sea ice that encompasses the environment is melting, is due to the core temperature of the globe increasing because of more emissions of greenhouse gases in the air, meaning the Arctic has become already slightly warmer.

The sea ice (1 to 5 metres) provides a thin coating of the surface over the water in the Arctic, which melts slightly in the summer and freezes over in the winter. This layer of bright ice not only looks natural and beguiling but acts as a safety barrier in protecting our planet. The brightness of the ice means that the sheet of ice is a reflective surface that reflects ‘85 percent of incoming solar radiation back out to space.

‘In the last 43 years, the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the world’

The issue going forward is now presented by the global temperature increases, which means that the layer of ice is melting. When the ice has melted there are holes of uncovered ocean water exposed to the sun. Due to the ocean being one of the darkest surfaces on the planet, it means that a lot of solar energy and heat is absorbed.

This process works as a positive feedback loop, as the ice melting means the ocean obtains more heat from the sun, which makes more ice melt. This self-destructing cycle is defined as Arctic Amplification and is the reason for the Arctic melting rapidly and at a quicker rate than other environments.

The negative cycle that is happening in the Arctic also accelerates the rate at which permafrost is melting. Permafrost is defined as the ground beneath the surface layer of the earth, which has been continuously frozen over for decades.

Arctic Amplification research suggests solar energy and heat are absorbed primarily by the ocean, due to being a dark surface in contrast to the white ice sheets of the Arctic. | NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

Permafrost melting has a small-scale effect on local communities and also has a larger-scale effect on the wider environment and societies. On a local scale, this environmental change can affect infrastructure, such as roads and housing.

Alternatively, on a larger scale, permafrost melting can release organic carbon that combines with microbes contained in the permafrost which then releases carbon dioxide, worsening the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another component that can be released from the thawing permafrost is viruses from centuries ago, which could be deadly to humans.

‘The negative cycle that is happening in the Arctic also accelerates the rate at which permafrost is melting.’

Already, there are communities being affected by the consequence of arctic amplification and permafrost melting. The inhabitants of Tuvalu will soon feel the effect of arctic amplification as the acceleration of the ice melting means that the sea levels globally will begin to rise. Already, at high tide, nearly 40 % of the island is underwater and in the next couple of decades so will the rest of the islands of Tuvalu.

During COP26, the foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kope, demonstrated the effect rising sea levels are having on their nation by taking part in a conference, whilst standing knee-deep in the ocean.

This had a huge impact on showing how the rising sea levels will deeply affect the people of Tuvalu. The foreign minister has claimed that they will create a digital adaptation of the islands, so their people and culture cannot be forgotten.

‘Nearly 40 % of the island is underwater and in the next couple of decades so will the rest of the islands of Tuvalu.’ | World Meteorological Organization / Flickr

Not only is Arctic Amplification having an effect globally on people afar, but is also having a huge impact on animals that inhabit these areas. Polar bears are being increasingly affected by the effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Although polar bears are designed to spend time in the arctic waters, they also need to spend time on the ice caps to hunt and rest. Due to the melting of ice in the Arctic, polar bears are having to swim for longer to find their next bit of ice.

However, some polar bears are getting too exhausted and drowning whilst looking for pieces of ice. Therefore, they are having to resort to being on land. Sadly, polar bears have limited resources to survive on land as they mainly eat seals. It has been predicted that by 2050, there will be a 30% decline in polar bears. They have also been labelled as a threatened species due to the impact climate change is having on their habitat.

‘by 2050, there will be a 30% decline in polar bears.’

For the Arctic community, polar bears play an extremely important part as they are at the top of the food chain in this community, therefore maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Although the facts are gloomy, we can try our best to slow down the rate at which the warming of the Arctic is happening. Cutting down our emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane is extremely important, however, we also need to try and deduct the harmful gases that are already in our atmosphere.

An article by Durwood Zaelke suggests that to remove this carbon we need to ‘use photosynthesis to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in trees, grasslands, wetlands, and other biomass, while using the root systems to rebuild soil carbon’ and also creating products that can capture carbon.

Featured Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr

Bamber J. (2022) ‘The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the World’, PBS. Available at: [Acessed May 2nd, 2023].

Constable A.J. et al (2022) Cross Chapter Paper 6: Polar regions, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Pages 2319- 2368.

Craymer L. (2022). ‘Tuvalu turns to the metaverse as rising seas threaten existence’, Reuters. Available at: [Accessed May 2nd, 2023].

Henry M. (2022) ‘Why does the Arctic warm faster than the rest of the Planet?’ Carbon Brief. Available at: [Accessed May 2nd, 2023].

Rantanen M., et al (2022). The arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979. Communications Earth and Environment. Volume 3, Article 168.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (n.d.) Polar Bears: Icon on Ice, WWF Learn. Available at: [Accessed May 2nd, 2023].

Centre for Science Education UCAR (n.d.) ‘Polar Bears on thin ice, Learning Zone.Available at: [Accessed May 2nd, 2023].

Zaelke D. (2019) ‘How to save the Arctic’s moderating role on global warming’ Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Available at: [Accessed May 2nd, 2023].

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