Grim Arctic report card not good for Southwest Florida environment

Published: January 6, 2022 4:34 PM EST
Updated: January 6, 2022 6:01 PM EST

Southwest Florida is about as different from the Arctic as possible but the two are still connected.

A new report shows melting Arctic ice and warmer temperatures which can have a big effect in Southwest Florida.

“It’s always strange to think that melting in the Arctic, can have direct implications on Florida,” said Joanne Muller, an associate professor of climatology at The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.

But Muller knows what happens there, impacts Southwest Florida.

“We are going to be the first to feel the effects of the melting that they’re actually seeing in the Arctic right now,” she said.

What scientists are seeing as mapped out in NOAA’s 2021 Arctic Report Card isn’t comforting.

“The report card covers vital signs. And these are topics that get covered every single year. And they include things like surface air temperature, snow, vegetation greenness,” said Twila Moon, deputy lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. 

For instance, the melting Greenland ice sheet.

“And that ice loss, adds volume, adds water to the ocean, and actually influences faraway shores more than it influences Greenland,” Moon said. 

The change could impact shores much further south, Moon said.

“When we think of blue sky flooding, or having higher tidal events, and experiencing really coastal erosion, or saltwater getting into formerly freshwater resources at the coast, these are connected to this Arctic change of losing land ice,” Moon said.

While the Arctic is far from here, the changes are a glimpse to an issue beyond the top of the world.

“It doesn’t really matter where the melting occurs in the world. It’s going to affect us first,” Muller said. 

Southwest Florida could see the effects through sea rise levels and warmer water because without ice to reflect sunlight and radiation, the ocean ends up absorbing it instead.

“If you then put a really intense hurricane on top of that, that could have really disastrous effects here in Southwest Florida,” Muller said.

Despite the grim report, it’s not too late.

“I think talking about it with each other, realizing that we have similar concerns, and then taking those concerns into action, making changes and maybe what’s in the school cafeteria, or the solar panels on your church, or talking with your representatives, no matter their party, to say, we really want action on this front,” Moon said. 

Scientists hope with better education, we can change the grade.

MORE: Read the full NOAA report card