Preliminary Remarks

Climatologists, along with other specialists researching particular components of the global climatic system, are well aware of the significance of research into the climate of polar regions, including all aspects of its variability. It is recommended that continuous environmental monitoring of at least parts of the polar regions, especially those which are sensitive to climatic changes, be conducted so that it will be possible to formulate a climatic forecast for lower latitudes in advance. Such a formulation is feasible owing to the fact that these areas are the most sensitive to react to climatic changes, and thus constitute the best indicators of such changes (Flohn 1978; Polar Group 1980; Weller 1982; Jäger & Kellog 1983, and others). As a result, climatic warming and cooling epochs in the higher latitudes should be clearer and they should appear there earlier than in other parts of the globe. Analogous results have been obtained from the majority of climatic models (IPCC 1990, 1992). These models suggest that the warming in the polar regions, together with the doubling of the concentration of C02, shall be 2-3 times greater than the average global warming, and should amount to around 6-9°C. The global warming of about 0.5°C which occurred in the last hundred years is most often attributed to the greenhouse effect (Vinnikov 1986; Budyko 1988; Schneider 1989). Thus, if it is assumed that climatic models predict climatic conditions accurately, the warming in the Arctic should already have risen by 1-1.5°C (and even more in the winter); also, warming should have been exceptionally pronounced in the region in recent decades. However, the trends shown by empirical data from the Arctic for this period are so weak as to be insignificant from a statistical point of view, and the sign of these trends (±) depends on the starting point from which they are computed (Hanssen-Bauer etal. 1990; Lindzen 1990; Nordli 1990; Chapman & Walsh 1993; Kahl et al. 1993a and b; Przybylak & Usowicz 1994). The discrepancy between the results of the climatic models and meteorological observations demonstrates that our knowledge about the polar climate is still incomplete to a considerable extent. As may be seen from the work of many researchers (Borisenkov & Polozov 1986; Drozdov 1988, and others), in the near future, climatic fluctuations in polar regions will be shaped mainly by natural factors (e.g. the variability of solar radiation, of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, or of volcanic activity). Thus, any evaluation of the possible climatic changes or any attempt to forecast them in the near future will be conducted by examining mutual relations between the above climatic factors and the climate of the Arctic.

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