Forces of Change
Arctic temperatures were also warm during the 1930s and 1940s, but the rise was not as rapid as in recent decades.
Graph The M Factory © Smithsonian Institution

Is the Arctic Changing Now?

On average, Arctic air temperatures—like those globally—have warmed since 1900. Warming has been greatest in Alaska and Siberia. However, Southern Greenland has cooled.

Changes in Arctic ice cover have also been observed. The seasonal melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, for example, has increased on average by 16% from 1979 to 2002.

How Warm Might the Arctic Get?

Most computer models forecast an average temperature rise of about 6°C (10.8° F) by 2100—twice the increase anticipated globally, assuming warming continues at a moderate rate.

The seasonal melt zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1992 (left) and 2002 (right). Satellites measure the extent of melting. Airborne altimeters measure the ice cap’s thickness.
Graphic © Konrad Steffen and Russell Huff, University of Colorado, CIRES