Arctic Experiencing Unprecedented Rates of Change, Experts Warn
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WATCH: The Arctic Resilience Report compiled by experts working with the Arctic Council states that the observed rate of change in regards a number of indicators in the Arctic is faster than ever before and is accelerating.

The Arctic is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of social, ecological and environmental change that could threaten the way of life for communities in the polar region and have far-reaching global implications, according to a new report by an international team of scientists.

The Arctic Resilience Report compiled by experts working with the Arctic Council states that the observed rate of change in regards a number of indicators in the Arctic is faster than ever before and is accelerating, threatening the sustainability of ecosystems in the region. The report notes that while some change, including warming temperatures, has a gradual impact, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, “have the potential to be not only abrupt, but also irreversible.”

New aerial photos by Mario Tama of Getty Images who flew with NASA’s Operation IceBridge reveal the evolving landscape of Antarctica as the region begins to shift from the effects of climate change. The N... Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
NASA is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica, surveying the start of the melt season, which usually takes place from October through November. The fastest ongoing rates of gla... Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A portion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is visible from the window of a NASA aircraft, Oct. 28, 2016, as part of its IceBridge mission. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with mountains is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 28, 2016, mid-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Floating ice breaks apart near the coast of Western Antarctica in this photo taken from the window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 27, 2016, mid-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 27, 2016, mid-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Ice breaks apart near the coast of Western Antarctica in this photo taken from the window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 27, 2016, mid-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A section of ice near the coast of West Antarctica is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane, Oct. 31, 2016, in-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Sea ice near the coast of West Antarctica can be seen here during a flyover of Antarctica by NASA's Operation IceBridge on Oct. 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
The cockpit of a NASA Operation IceBridge DC-8 Research airplane is seen in this photo from Oct. 27, 2016, during a mission flying from the coast of Chile toward Antarctica to photograph the rapidly changing ic... Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A crew member on NASA's Operation IceBridge DC-8 aircraft is photographed here on Oct. 27, 2016, as the team flies from Antarctica toward Chile. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica in this photo taken from the window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on, Oct. 27, 2016, mid-flight over Antarctica. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
NASA's Operation IceBridge airplane surveys floating ice off the West Antarctica coast in this photo from Oct. 27, 2016. Researchers with the University of California, Irvine, and NASA announced last week they ... Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Ice floating off the coast of West Antarctica is seen here through an opening in the cargo hold of a NASA IceBridge airplane on Oct 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

“This ground-breaking report, based on direct evidence from case studies across the circumpolar Arctic, is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground in the region’s social-ecological systems,” Joel Clement, the Director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Interior and co-chair of the Arctic Resilience Report Project Steering Committee said in a statement.

Human activity -- including greenhouse gas emissions, migration, resource extraction, tourism, and shifting political relationships -- is the main cause of climate change to the Arctic, according to the report.

“Climate change is severely stressing Arctic livelihoods and people, and the extent to which Arctic people can build resilience to these stresses is quite limited,” Miriam Huitric, a lead author of the report said in a statement.

“Without rapid action to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed," Huitric added.

The report states that the Greenland Ice Sheet was previously believed to be resistant to climate change, but recent observations suggest that "major changes in the dynamics of parts of the ice sheet are occurring over time scales of only years."

The report adds that the ice sheet has been "thinning at rates higher than expected due to warmer summers as atmospheric temperature rise." It also states that the biggest "direct driver" in the loss of the ice sheet is warmer temperatures caused by climate change.

If the Greenland Ice Sheet melts completely, it would raise global sea levels an average of 7.4 meters, according to the report.

The report comes as regional temperatures alarmingly reached nearly 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) above average seasonal averages. In addition, summer sea-ice hit new record low levels in recent years.

A NASA Earth Observatory photo taken on Sept. 22, 2016 shows the Bruckner and Heim glaciers where they flow into Johan Petersen Fjord in southeastern Greenland.

The report identifies 19 key "regime shifts," described in the report as "largely irreversible changes," that have or could occur in Arctic ecosystems, and would affect the stability of current climate, landscapes and the way of life for indigenous people.

"One of the study’s most important findings is that not only are regime shifts occurring, but there is a real risk that one regime shift could trigger others, or simultaneous regime shifts could have unexpected effects,” Johan L. Kuylenstierna, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute and a member of the Project Steering Committee said in a statement.

Johan Rockström, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and co-chair of the Project Steering Committee added, "If multiple regime shifts reinforce each other, the results could be potentially catastrophic. The variety of effects that we could see means that Arctic people and policies must prepare for surprise. We also expect that some of those changes will destabilize the regional and global climate, with potentially major impacts.”

The report emphasized the need for international cooperation in order to tackle the effects of climate change on the Arctic region, and to be able to build local communities' resilience to climate change.

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