map of US winter temp anomalies 2011-2012

When NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center crunched the numbers for December, January and February—”meteorological” winter for 2011-2012—it stacked up as the fourth warmest of the past 117 winters. Virtually all of the West received less than its average precipitation.

The Arctic of recent years—warmer, greener, less icy—is likely to be the new normal for the Far North. One sign of the ongoing transformation of the Arctic is the spread of shrubs across the tundra.

In the 2011 Arctic Report Card, scientists report that the bright white surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet has grown less reflective. The darker surface absorbs more sunlight, accelerating melting.

On December 1, NOAA released its annual Arctic Report Card. Like a yearly check-up at the doctor's office, the report summarizes conditions in the Arctic atmosphere, ocean, and on land.

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