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Arctic is Getting Darker, Absorbing More Heat; Study Finds

Feb 18, 2014 09:02 AM EST

The North Pole has gotten darker in the past few years due to sea ice loss. The rapid melting of sea ice in Arctic has resulted in the region trapping more heat than before, according to a new study.

The present study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and colleagues used three decades' worth of satellite data and found that arctic darkening was two or three times more than previous estimates, Associated Press reported.

Explaining Arctic darkening, Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California said, "Basically, it means more warming," reports The Associated Press. The extra heat is equivalent to 25 percent of the heat-trapping effect of Carbon dioxide.

 Previous research on sea ice reflection was based on climate models, which researchers said, provided an unclear picture of what was happening up north.

The study showed that the Arctic albedo levels reduced from 52 percent to 48 percent in the past thirty years, Livescience reported.

Albedo indicates how well a surface reflects solar energy, according to National Snow and Ice Data Center. An albedo of zero means that the surface is a perfect absorber while 1 indicates that it reflects light.

Other researchers have hypothesized that the melting sea ice decreases Arctic albedo, which results in higher global temperature.

"Although more work is needed, a possible implication of this is that the amplifying feedback of Arctic sea ice retreat on global warming is larger than has been previously expected," Eisenman told Live Science.

The team will be studying the effects of soot on the darkening of Arctic. If this link turns out to be novel, then researchers will be able to show why climate models failed to account for the low albedo levels, Livescience reported.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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