The Arctic is the area most affected by climate change, according to climate researchers worldwide. This emerges from the sixth World Ocean Review (WOR), which was presented in Berlin. As a result, the polar region is heating more than twice as fast as the rest of the world and has thus become the "hotspot" of climate change in recent decades. The trigger is complex interactions between the atmosphere, land, sea and dwindling ice.

"What effects contribute to the extent and extent to which is controversial in science controversial," says the approximately 300-page report by scientists in various fields. However, satellite observations in 2019 showed the progressive loss of large sea ice areas in the Arctic and the progressive "dynamization" of Antarctic and Greenland continental masses.

According to the researchers, the decline in sea ice in the Barents and Kara Sea also affects the strength and course of the jet stream over the northern hemisphere and thus also indirectly influences the weather in the middle latitudes. The jet stream is a wavy air flow at high altitude.

In addition, according to the report, more freshwater is being introduced into the Arctic Ocean due to the ice melt. What consequences this has, according to WOR is still unclear. "However, researchers suspect that they are slowing down the climate-relevant upheaval in the waters of the North Atlantic - and as a result could lose strength for the Gulf Stream, which is so important for Europe."

Total ice loss tripled since 2012

According to the researchers, a particular danger can be the accelerated melting of ice in the Antarctic. According to the WOR , the total ice loss in the Antarctic has tripled since 2012. The contribution to global sea-level rise, which is increasing in speed, has also risen: "At 3.3 millimeters per year, this is now twice as high as it was in 1990."

The authors of the report also draw attention to the threatened habitat of the polar region. Thus, the experts assume a far-reaching impairment of plant and animal life by increasing, including tourist ship traffic. In addition, resources in previously inaccessible regions are accessible, new fishing areas and shorter shipping lanes opened up, whose exploitation rights have not yet been finally clarified, write the spokesman of the research network Future Ocean in their joint preface.

All of these changes impacted the global climate. "We all depend directly on the stability of the polar regions," warned the professor and co-spokeswoman of the Kiel research network Future Ocean , Nele Matz-Lück. The maritime law expert also criticized the growing interest in commercial exploitation of the Arctic. "It is ironic that the effects of climate change, such as the retreat of ice in the first place, make it possible to extract oil and gas in the Arctic," said Matz-Lück. Eventually, this will result in even more fossil fuels being burned, which will lead to even greater effects on the climate in the future.

Matz-Lück therefore pleads for committed climate protection goals that are binding for all states. However, the researcher does not believe in a contract that explicitly protects the Arctic. "The Arctic states have already stated that they do not want a treaty regime like the Antarctic." Arctic neighbors claiming interests and claims to the Arctic marine area include Russia and the US with Alaska, Canada, Denmark with Greenland, and Norway. In the Arctic Ocean, there are large and hitherto unattainable fishing grounds, but especially raw materials. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of undiscovered fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, are located north of the Arctic Circle.

Continuous increase in temperature

Researcher Mark Parrington of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, in a conversation with ZEIT ONLINE, confirmed that the temperature at the surface of the Arctic Circle has steadily increased over the decades on average as a result of global warming. Parrington relies on satellite temperature evaluations made since 1981.

This year's unusually high temperatures in the northern polar region triggered the heaviest fires in more than a decade last summer. In total, 270 fires a day burned in the northern polar circle in mid-July (from 2003 to 2018 it was about 55 per day at the same time). According to the researcher, the increasing fires in the Arctic can also be attributed to the increase in surface temperature and the greater drought in the region.

Climate change - What if we do nothing? Forest fires, ice melt, storms: Man feels the global warming. What's the future like? Climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf explains our world 4 degrees more.

Not only are permafrost soils in the Arctic endangered by global warming - glaciers and polar ice caps are also melting. ZEIT ONLINE visualized in time-lapse how the ice has disappeared for decades. Read also our focus on climate change, its causes and consequences.