Week of the Arctic begins in Fairbanks

Published: May. 7, 2017 at 9:28 PM AKDT
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The "Week of the Arctic" begins in Fairbanks Monday.

One of the central events will be the Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council which will be attended by Foreign Ministers of the eight Arctic states.

Ahead of the meeting of the Arctic Council, a new report called the "Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic” (SWIPA) was released. The report is an update to one released in 2011.

Much of what is covered in the report hasn’t changed since the previous assessment, but the findings are “supported by more evidence and in some cases warrant greater concern due to more significant impacts or new knowledge.”

According to the report, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. The report also covers melting permafrost, disappearing sea ice and sea level rise.

What's different in this report is the focus on what it would take to stabilize changes in the Arctic. According to the report, over the last five years of research, climate models show many changes are underway and may be irreversible, particularly through mid-century.

The SWIPA report goes on to say, if greenhouse gases are reduced now, many of the changes could slow or stop after the middle of the century.

“I was really happy that they were willing to go out on a limb and make some concrete estimates of if we are able to keep the Paris Agreement in place,” says Cheryl Rosa, Alaska Director with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. “Some of the reductions and some of the stabilization that will happen because of climate change.”

For the past two years, the United States has chaired the Arctic Council. On Thursday, in Fairbanks, the U.S. will hand over chairmanship to Finland. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to be there for that meeting.

The Week of the Arctic with will consist of presentations, workshops, receptions and cultural celebrations highlighting key themes and accomplishments of the Arctic Council and broader Arctic efforts. The public is invited to some of the events.