Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2011
The last few years have seen an unprecedented level of interest in the climate of the polar regions. The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, the reduction in extent of Arctic sea ice, the disintegration of floating ice shelves around the Antarctic and the high levels of aerosols reaching the Arctic have all been reported extensively in the media. This has been coupled with climate model predictions showing that the high latitude areas will warm more than any other region on Earth over the next century if ‘greenhouse gas’ concentrations continue to rise. Yet some have pointed to rapid climatic fluctuations that have taken place in the polar regions over the last few centuries and millennia and questioned whether the recent changes that we have seen are not simply a result of natural climate variability. Hence the time is right for a reappraisal of our understanding of recent high latitude climate change in the context of increasing anthropogenic influence on the Earth and our greater understanding of the reasons for past climate variability.
This book seeks to assess the climatic and environmental changes that have taken place over the last century and set these in the context of our understanding of natural climate variability in the pre-industrial period. We will draw on many of the new climate data sets that have become available in recent years and also make use of the results of modelling experiments.