from the BBC’s Richard Black
Arctic temperatures are now higher than at any time in the last 2,000 years, research reveals.
to the Earth’s orbit drove centuries of cooling, but temperatures rose
fast in the last 100 years as human greenhouse gas emissions rose.
Scientists took evidence from ice cores, tree rings and lake sediments.
in the journal Science, they say this confirms that the Arctic is very
sensitive both to changes in solar heating and to greenhouse warming.
The 23 sites sampled were good enough to provide a decade-by-decade picture of temperatures across the region.
How much energy we’re getting from the Sun is no longer the most important thing governing the temperature of the Arctic
Nicholas McKay, University of Arizona, Tucson
On average, the region cooled at a rate of 0.2C per millennium until about 1900. Since then, it has warmed by about 1.2C.
Much debate on climate change has centred on the Mediaeval Warm
Period, or Mediaeval Climate Anomaly – a period about 1,000 years ago
when, historical records suggest, Vikings colonised Greenland and may
have grown grapes in Newfoundland.
The new analysis shows that
temperatures were indeed warmer in this region 1,000 years ago than
they were 100 years ago – but not as warm as they are now, or 1,000
“It shows that the Mediaeval Warm Period is
real, and is… an exception from the general trend of cooling,”
commented Eystein Jansen from Bergen University in Norway, who was not
involved in the research.
“It also shows there’s lots of
variability on the 100-year timescale, and that’s probably more so in
the Arctic than elsewhere.”
Professor Jansen was a
co-ordinating lead author on the palaeoclimate (ancient climate)
chapter of the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
As the Science study emerged, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was telling the World Climate Conference
in Geneva that many of the “more distant scenarios” forecast by climate
scientists were “happening now”.
Earlier this week, Mr Ban visited the Arctic in an attempt to gain first-hand experience of how the region is changing.
have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real
scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action,” he
said in his Geneva speech, calling for world leaders to make bigger
pledges of action in the run-up to December’s UN climate summit in
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