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10.10b.2 Arctic Warming Twice as Fast as Global Average

Graph of arctic and global temperatures from 1900 to 2018.

United States. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

"Arctic Warming Twice as Fast as Global Average," NOAA Climate, 2018,

Temperatures have risen in the Arctic (and the Antarctic) more than twice as much as they have risen in the lower latitudes. This is because these areas are losing ice cover. The ocean and the land absorb heat from the sun, unlike ice, which reflects heat. So, when ice in glaciers or icebergs melts, it exposes more land and ocean water to the sun. More of the heat is absorbed, thereby warming both the ocean and the land. Warmer temperatures also cause the sea to expand because warm water is less dense than cold water. And melting land ice causes the sea level to rise. The sea level has been rising for the past 150 years or so, and this rate is accelerating. One recent prediction is that the sea level could rise 25 inches by 2100. Forty percent of the world's population live in low-lying coastal areas. How does sea level rise threaten them?

You might discuss with students the human causes of greenhouse gas emissions and the connections to industrialization and use of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, communication, and more. Students should understand that sea level rise threatens a huge portion of the earth's people, including the inhabitants of eight of the ten world's largest cities.

Difference from average (degrees of Celsius)
Arctic Temperatures and Global Temperatures (1900 – 2018)
Global Temperatures from -0.75 Celsius in 1900 to 0.5 Celsius in 2018
Arctic Temperatures from -1.5 Celsius in 1900 to 1.5 Celsius in 2018