Arctic ice melting faster than previously recognized

• February 15, 2013
NASA photo of melting sea ice in Arctic ocean

Creative Commons: NASA Goddard Photo and Video, 2011

The Arctic is disappearing at an alarming rate. Researchers say data from two satellites shows that Arctic sea ice volume declined by 36 percent last fall and between the winter of 2002 and the winter of 2008 the Arctic lost about 9 percent of its volume.

This data comes from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite between 2010 and 2012, as well as NASA’s ICESat satellite between 2003 to 2008. Both satellites were used to observe arctic sea ice volume and a team of British-lead scientists were able extrapolate that the Arctic is a rapidly changing place.

They found that from 2003 to 2008, autumn volumes of ice averaged 11,900 km3. But from 2010 to 2012, the average volume had dropped to 7,600 km3 – a decline of 4,300 km3. The average ice volume in the winter from 2003 to 2008 was 16,300 km3, dropping to 14,800 km3 between 2010 and 2012 – a difference of 1,500 km3.

While these results confirm previous findings about declining Arctic sea-ice volume, the most disturbing part of this news is the method in which the most recent data was obtained. CryoSat-2, launched in April 2010, differs from previous satellites in that it allows scientists estimate the volume of sea ice. This is a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic compared to previous means of obtaining data.

Read more: The National Environment Research Council>>

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About the Author

Karl Burkart is the Digital Communications Director for the GCCA, the Global Call for Climate Action, and TckTckTck, a network of 400+ diverse organizations working around the world for greater action on the growing problem of climate change. Karl also blogs on technology and the environment for a variety of publications. You can follow him on Twitter @greendig.

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