Arctic Sea Ice continues to decline, researchers and NASA observe.

In spite of a colder than average winter in the Arctic, researchers from NASA and the National Snow and Data Center of the University of Colorado have found that while new sea ice has been forming , the longer lasting perennial ice is continuing to decline.

The scientist believe that the new sea ice is the result of the recent cold winter while the decline of the perennial ice is due to “increased melting during summer and the greater movement of the older ice out of the Arctic.” In fact, researchers have found, using microwave data, that the levels of perennial ice have decreased from a coverage of 50-60 percent of the Arctic, to less than 30 percent this year. “The very old ice that remains in the Arctic for at least six years comprised 20 percent of the Arctic area in the mid to late 1980’s, but this winter it decreased to just 6 percent.

Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)reports that the impact of the loss of this thicker layer of perennial ice is that the reflection of solar energy from the sun is diminished. The consequence of this is that it is replaced by dark water that absorbs the sun’s energy and warms the oceans exacerbating global warming even further.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that scientists also analysed satellite data for Antarctica but found less dramatic change there, positing that the differences lies in the fact that the Antarctic is a continent.

The NSIDC asserts that while both Arctic and Antarctic ice are of vital importance to the marine mammals and birds for which they are habitats, sea ice in the Arctic appears to play a more crucial role in regulating climate.

The NSIDC) posits this warning:

“warming conditions and wind patterns have been the main drivers of the steeper decline since the late 1990s. Sea ice may not be able to recover under the current persistently warm conditions, and a tipping point may have been passed where the Arctic will eventually be ice-free during at least part of the summer. “(Lindsay and Zhang, 2005)

The National Snow and Ice Data Center page can be viewed at the link here and includes a lot of interesting data on the Arctic and the problems besetting it.

The NASA page linked above also has some data and satellite images for those who are interested.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 20 March, 2008.

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