Until roughly a decade or so ago, the region was holding up relatively well, despite warming at roughly twice the rate of the planet as a whole. But in recent years, it's undergone an abrupt change, which now defines it. The Arctic is our glimpse of an Earth in flux, transforming into something that's radically different from today.


The effects are being felt further afield, too. "We're fairly confident now," Mathis said, that the warming Arctic is "creating conditions where more extreme weather events are beginning to show up in North America." For example, separate research published earlier this month found a robust link between dwindling Arctic sea ice and an expanding risk of California drought.


That the Arctic is now a relic of a time gone by -- the first major part of the planet on a countdown clock -- should shock us. It's one of those facts that those of us who closely follow climate change knew was coming. And with its arrival, it is devastating in its totality.

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