October 28, 2008

ESA: Arctic Sea Ice Down By 19 Percent

The European Space Agency says satellite data shows the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic declined by as much as 19 percent last winter.

Using data from the ESA's Envisat satellite, scientists at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at University College London measured Arctic sea ice thickness from 2002 to 2008 and found it had been fairly constant until the record loss of ice during the summer of 2007.

The research shows last winter the average thickness of sea ice over the whole Arctic fell by 10 inches, compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters. However, the sea ice in the western Arctic lost around 17 inches of thickness.

"Satellites provide the only means to determine trends and a consistent and wide area basis," said Katharine Giles of UCL, who led the study. "Envisat altimeter data have provided the critical third dimension to the satellite images, which have already revealed a dramatic decrease in the area of ice covered in the Arctic."

The team, including Seymour Laxon and Andy Ridout, reports its findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.