September 2, 2009
Arctic sea ice thickness down 53 percent
U.S. scientists using satellite data and records from cold war submarine missions have found Arctic Ocean ice thickness has declined 53 percent since 1980.
This summer, a group of U.S. and Canadian scientists and students set out from Resolute Bay, Canada, to check the Arctic Ocean ice.
One of the scientists was Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Kwok, the space agency said, has long provided checkups on the health of arctic sea ice -- the frozen sea water floating within the Arctic Ocean basin.
Sea ice influences the arctic's local weather, climate and ecosystems, the scientists said, but sea ice also affects global climate.
We need to understand the long-term trends, rather than the short-term trends that could be easily biased by short-term changes, Kwok said.
Long-term trends are more reliable indicators of how sea ice is changing with the global and regional climate.
Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager, added:
A fantastic change is happening on Earth -- it's truly one of the biggest changes in environmental conditions on Earth since the end of the ice age. It's not an easy thing to observe, let alone predict what might happen next.
The study was reported in the Aug. 6 online edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.