The Arctic is a highly sensitive region, and it's being profoundly affected by the changing climate. Many scientists believe that global warming is the cause. Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Satellite photos have shown that the Artic region is shrinking in size since the 1970's (Global Warming: The Silent Threat). In the last two decades, temperatures have been rising in the Arctic at a rate 20 times faster than the warming that occurred over the previous century, and the thickness of the ice sheet has decreased by about half (down from 15 feet in the 1980s to 8 feet in 2003). Springs are coming earlier, and fall is arriving later, which combined with higher summer temperatures year after year contribute to the gradual shrinking of the permanent ice sheet (Cox 14).
Climate scientists since the mid 1970's have predicted that warming would come first and strongest in the Arctic after 1995.
The change has been increasingly evident, both to scientists and to indigenous people. In Alaska and western Canada, winter temperatures have gone up as much as 7 degrees F over the past 50 years. Since the mid 1970's, the floating Arctic ice pack has lost an area the size of Texas and Arizona combined. With a shorter season of sea ice, fall storms batter Alaska's Arctic coast as never before, causing erosion that threatens communities (Wohlforth 9). Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. For example, the largest single block of ice in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, had been around for 3,000 years before it started cracking in 2000. Within two years it had split all the way through and is now breaking into pieces (Global Warming: The Silent Threat).