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Warming in Svalbard, Arctic will continue 'at a fast pace': climate scientist

Accelerated warming in the Svalbard archipelago is offering a glimpse into the impact of climate change now, and in the future, in the Arctic and around the world.

The Arctic region is warming at a much faster pace than the global average, with temperatures in Svalbard rising six times faster than the rest of the world.

"It will continue to warm at a fast pace," Rasmus Benestad, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, told CTV's Your Morning on Monday.

Benestad said the Arctic is warming faster due to the retreat of sea ice that's exposing warmer sea water underneath, creating a chain reaction referred to as polar amplification.

In July 2020, Svalbard recorded its highest temperature on record of 21.7 C. Prior to that, the islands would normally see temperatures between 5 and 8 C for that time of the year.

The changing climate has affected life in the area, with Benestad pointing to extreme rainfall events in early 2012 and a fatal avalanche in December 2015.

Along with melting permafrost, reduced sea ice will cause global sea levels to rise.

"So it depends on what we do actually in terms of global carbon emissions and use of fossil fuels," Benestad said. "But for sure, we need to adapt to changes in the Svalbard region."

Watch the full interview with Rasmus Benestad at the top of the article

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