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Arctic and Ice Cap: Down From 1981-2010 Average

Sep 17, 2015 02:19 PM EDT
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The Arctic sea ice cap is now chunky and broken in places where it used to be a solid mass. NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder learned more about this and that the summertime ice minimum was the fourth lowest on record, when they conducted a recent analysis, according to a release.

That is, the annual minimum extent of the ice coverage was 1.70 million square miles at that reading, and it was less than the 1981-2010 average by 699,000 square miles, noted a release.

Just a bit of background: In the Arctic, sea ice is made of frozen ocean water floating on top of the water surface, and it helps to even out the planet's temperature by doing its part to reflect sunlight (with its solar energy) back to space. As a surface, it expands and lessens with the seasons. The summer extent of ice has been becoming smaller since the late 1970s, the release noted.

Also, this year, meterological factors were not a cause of the thinning.
"This year is the fourth lowest, and yet we haven't seen any major weather event or persistent weather pattern in the Arctic this summer that helped push the extent lower as often happens," said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the release. "It was a bit warmer in some areas than last year, but it was cooler in other places, too."

The year 2012 was the lowest-ice year on record, but that year included a strong August cyclone that broke up the ice surface and helped it to decrease faster. In satellite record, the smallest minimum extents were in the past 11 years, according to the release.

"The thicker ice will likely continue to decline," Comiso said in the release. "There might be some recoveries during some years, especially when the winter is unusually cold, but it is expected to go down again because the surface temperature in the region continues to increase."

NASA is soon starting a survey by air of the polar ice called Operation IceBridge, which aims to help validate readings by satellite, according to a release.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit their page.

Also go to the NASA site to see time-lapse images of the Arctic sea ice. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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