The Arctic sure isn't what it used to be. As temperatures continue to rise, ice melts, snow recedes, and more dramatic changes are on tap for the region, according to the annual NOAA Arctic Report Card released Tuesday. Speaking to reporters, per Scientific American, scientist Rick Thoman called the Arctic a "region in the middle of transition," adding, "Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there's really no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today." CBS News notes that evidence of rapid Arctic change is not hard to find: Wildfires ravaged Siberia over the summer, sea ice levels have hit record lows, and Arctic temperatures have reached record highs.
The New York Times notes that human activity is making temperatures rise planet-wide, but it's happening twice as quickly in the Arctic. The result is rising sea levels that alter ocean circulation and possibly help create extreme weather conditions. Some Arctic Ocean animals are benefiting from the altered ecosystem, as annual spring algae blooms are happening earlier and bigger than in the past, providing food for creatures that are in turn eaten by predators—a "relatively new" development, says expert Karen Frey, per Scientific American. At the same time, bottom-dwelling animals like shellfish and sea urchins may suffer since they feed on algae that grows on sea ice. (Read more climate change stories.)