Thursday, September 3, 2009

Global warming has made Arctic summers hottest in 2,000 years

Global warming has nullified the effect of increasing distance between the sun and Earth during the Arctic summer solstice. Photograph: National Science Foundation

Warming as a result of increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has overwhelmed a millennia-long cycle of natural cooling in the Arctic, raising temperatures in the region to their highest for at least 2,000 years, according to a report.

The Arctic began to cool several thousand years ago as changes in the planet's orbit increased the distance between the sun and the Earth and reduced the amount of sunlight reaching high northern latitudes during the summer.

But despite the Earth being farther from the sun during the northern hemisphere's summer solstice, the Arctic summer is now 1.2C warmer than it was in 1900.

Writing in the US journal Science, an international team of researchers describe how thousands of years of natural cooling in the Arctic were followed by a rise in temperatures from 1900 which accelerated briskly after 1950.

The warming of the Arctic is more alarming in view of the natural cooling cycle, which by itself would have seen temperatures 1.4C cooler than they are today, scientists said.

The rest of the article in the U.K.'s Guardian newspapers is here.

The New York Times examines the latest research findings here.