Aerosols Mask 60 Percent of Arctic Warming

The Arctic is warming on average twice as fast as the global average, but in places the warming is double even this rate. Implications are immense as the Arctic is literally the worlds air conditioner, or at least most of the world as most of the world’s land is in the Northern Hemisphere.

Thaw out this air conditioner and more happens than it begins to blow hot air. Ice reflects up to 90 percent of the sun’s energy harmlessly back into space, whereas open ocean, dirt, rocks, tundra and trees absorb up to 90 percent of the suns rays and change this energy into heat energy where it stays on earth, trapped by the greenhouse effect.

This research, performed by the University of Victoria and Environment Canada, uses the latest temperature set for the Arctic that has been adjusted for missing data and the most advance (CMIP5) climate model.

When run without global cooling aerosol (sulfate pollution from coal fired power plants mostly) and natural forcings, they find a 3 degree C increase in Arctic temperature. Using cooling aerosols and natural forcing they find a warming of 1.2 degrees C which is virtually identical too observed warming. It is important to note that the researchers tell us that; “Natural forcing
has not contributed to the observed long-term warming
in a discernible way.”

The take away is that global cooling aerosols have masked 60 percent (1.8 degrees C) of the warming that should have already occurred in the Arctic.

Using the 8.3 degrees C of warming projected for 2100 by the worst-case scenario RCP8.5 and understanding that 60 percent of this is masked by aerosols, actual Arctic warming by 2100 would be 12.5 degrees C or 22.5 degrees F.

VERY IMPORTANT: The elephant in the room has yet to be identified. Shutting down coal eliminates most excess aerosol pollution that accounts for the masking of increased Arctic (and global) temperature. The IPCC tells us that 57 percent or average global warming has been masked by aerosols.

Shut down coal and this mask rapidly disappears as aerosols have a life in the atmosphere that is at most about a year. Without aerosols global temperature more than doubles without any additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate pollution policy remains oblivious to this science as we attempt to shut down coal burning as fast as possible.


Najafi et al., Attribution of Arctic temperature change to greenhouse gas and aerosol influnces, Nature Climate Change, February 9, 2015.