From: Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
Published February 5, 2010 06:45 AM

Arctic Ice not growing as fast as usual this winter

Scant ice over the Arctic Sea this winter could mean a "double whammy" of powerful ice-melt next summer, a top U.S. climate scientist said on Thursday.

"It's not that the ice keeps melting, it's just not growing very fast," said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

In January, Arctic sea ice grew by about 13,000 square miles (34,000 sq km) a day, which is a bit more than one-third the pace of ice growth during the 1980s, and less than the average for the first decade of the 21st century.


Arctic ice cover is important to the rest of the world because the Arctic is the globe's biggest weather-maker, sometimes dubbed Earth's air-conditioner for its ability to cool down the planet.

More melting Arctic sea ice could affect this weather-making process; it is unlikely to lead to rising sea levels, any more than an ice cube melting in a glass of water would make the glass overflow.

If Arctic ice fails to build up sufficiently during the dark, cold winter months, it is likely to melt faster and earlier when spring comes, Serreze said by telephone from Colorado.

"We've grown back ice in the winter, but that ice tends to be thin and that's the problem," he said. "You set yourself up for a world of hurt in summer. The ice that is there is also thinner than it was before and thinner ice simply takes less energy to melt out the next summer."

With less of the Arctic sea covered in ice in winter, and with the existing ice thinner and more fragile than before, "you've got a double whammy going on," Serreze said.

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