March 18, 2008

Arctic Sea Ice Not Making a Comeback

Arctic sea ice that re-formed after last summer's melt should be seen as an illusion rather than a new hope, according to Walter Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

By glancing at a satellite image of the area, one could easily assume that the ice is making a comeback. Meier said the ice became more vulnerable after being melted and frozen.

"What's going on underneath the surface is really the key thing," Meier said.

Having formed since September, more than 70 percent of the sea ice is new and vulnerable.

Summer Arctic sea ice is connected to weather conditions around the world by affecting wind patterns, temperatures and even the Gulf Stream.

"What happens there, matters here," said Waleed Abdalati, chief ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Climate for the period of human record has depended on the ice being there."

Crucial perennial sea ice is needed to last through the summer, but is currently at an all-time low.

Meier said that the Arctic has lost more than half of its perennial sea ice and three-quarters of its sea ice that is six years or older. This amount of lost ice is twice the area of the state of Texas, he said.

Scientists expect to see even more melting next summer.

"We're in for a world of hurt this summer," ice center senior scientist Mark Serreze said.


On the Net:

National Snow and Ice Data Center

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA images and video about sea ice