Arctic's 2nd-Warmest Year Puts Wildlife, Coastal Communities Under Pressure

Signs of Tipping Points?

Julienne Stroeve, a researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said transformation of the Barents Sea could represent a tipping point in Arctic systems, with data already suggesting that the adjacent Kara Sea could be the next to experience a big decline in sea ice.

"We are now witnessing transformation of Arctic waters in that region to Atlantic waters, and this warm/salty water is not allowing the winter ice to form," said Stroeve, who didn't work on this Arctic Report Card but did work on a previous edition. "If this entire region becomes an extension of the Atlantic, this may start to pose an irreversible change."

Stroeve said the cumulative Arctic changes affect ocean circulation, fisheries, and add moisture to the atmosphere, perhaps increasing the likelihood of winter rain-on-snow events that put caribou, reindeer and musk oxen at risk.