From: Editor, ENN
Published July 8, 2009 06:44 AM

NASA Satellite Survey Reveals Dramatic Arctic Sea Ice Thinning measurements of winter sea ice thickness over Arctic Ocean, 2004 and 2008

A new research paper published by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows that arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type for the first time on record. The new results, based on data from a NASA Earth-orbiting spacecraft, provide further evidence for the rapid, ongoing transformation of the Arctic's ice cover. 

Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington in Seattle conducted the most comprehensive survey to date using observations from NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat, to make the first basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean's ice cover. Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., led the research team, which published its findings July 7 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

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The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months and intense cold ensues. In the summer, wind and ocean currents cause some of the ice naturally to flow out of the Arctic, while much of it melts in place. But not all of the Arctic ice melts each summer; the thicker, older ice is more likely to survive. Seasonal sea ice usually reaches about 6 feet in thickness, while multi-year ice averages 9 feet.

Using ICESat measurements, scientists found that overall Arctic sea ice thinned about 7 inches a year, for a total of 2.2 feet over four winters. The total area covered by the thicker, older "multi-year" ice that has survived one or more summers shrank by 42 percent.

In recent years, the amount of ice replaced in the winter has not been sufficient to offset summer ice losses. The result is more open water in summer, which then absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and further melting the ice. Between 2004 and 2008, multi-year ice cover shrank 595,000 square miles -- nearly the size of Alaska's land area.

For more information: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-107

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