2023 Arctic summer was warmest on record, scientists say

Dating back to 1940, the record also indicates that 2023 was the Arctic’s sixth-warmest year on record.

The average surface air temperature in the Arctic from July through September 2023 was the warmest summer on record at 43 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NOAA.

Dating back to 1940, the record also indicates that 2023 was the Arctic’s sixth-warmest year on record, with the average surface air temperature being 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

NOAA noted that since 1940, annual average temperatures in the Arctic have risen by .45 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. Plus, average summer temperatures have risen .31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.


These findings are part of NOAA’s annual 2023 Arctic Report Card, which documents how human-caused warming of the air, ocean and land is affecting communities and ecosystems across the Arctic.

Sea ice extent and the Greenland ice sheet

In addition to warming surface air temperatures, the Arctic Report Card showed that the sea ice extent in the Arctic has continued to decline. According to NOAA, the 17 lowest Arctic sea ice extents on record have occurred during the last 17 years.

The record for the sea ice extent, which began in 1979, shows that the sea ice extent of 2023 was the sixth lowest in the past 44 years.

Back on land, the Greenland ice sheet continued to lose mass despite above-average snow accumulation, NOAA said. The highest point on the ice sheet, known as Summit Station, reached a temperature of 32.7 degrees Fahrenheit and experienced melting for the fifth time in its 34-year record.


The Greenland ice sheet, along with the Antarctic ice sheet, contain over 99 percent of freshwater ice on Earth, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. NSIDC noted that if both ice sheets were to melt completely, they would raise the sea level by approximately 223 feet.

"The overriding message from this year’s report card is that the time for action is now," said Rick Spinrad, administrator of NOAA.

"NOAA and our federal partners have ramped up our support and collaboration with state, tribal and local communities to help build climate resilience," he added. "At the same time, we as a nation and global community must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are driving these changes."

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge for Arctic resilience

Supplementing the record is the knowledge of Indigenous groups who have lived and worked in the Arctic.

The 2023 Arctic Report Card includes two chapters that cover the importance of using Indigenous knowledge.

For example, one of those chapters describes the work of the Alaska Arctic Observatory and Knowledge Hub, which is a collaboration between the University of Alaska scientists and a network of Iñupiaq observers documenting long-term environmental change and social and cultural impacts on their northern Alaska communities.


In Europe, Indigenous and local knowledge was implemented to help restore peatlands and arboreal forests in Finland, NOAA said. Within the Scandinavian country, Indigenous Sámi people and Finnish villages are working with scientists to restore these wetland ecosystems and forests.