Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Arctic Sea Ice Is Suddenly Getting Thinner As Well As Receding

Date:
November 3, 2008
Source:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Summary:
Last winter, the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic fell by nearly half a meter (19 per cent) compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters. This followed the dramatic 2007 summer low when Arctic ice extent dropped to its lowest level since records began.

Last winter, the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic fell by nearly half a metre (19 per cent) compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters. This followed the dramatic 2007 summer low when Arctic ice extent dropped to its lowest level since records began.
Credit: ESA

Last winter, the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic fell by nearly half a metre (19 per cent) compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters. This followed the dramatic 2007 summer low when Arctic ice extent dropped to its lowest level since records began.

Up until last winter, the thickness of Arctic sea ice showed a slow downward trend during the previous five winters, but after the summer 2007 record low extent, the thickness of the ice also nose-dived. What is concerning is that sea ice is not just receding but it is also thinning.

Some scientists blamed the record summer 2007 ice extent low on unusually warm weather conditions over the Arctic, but this summer, sea ice extent reached the second lowest level since records began, even though the Arctic had a relatively cool summer. Dr Katharine Giles, who led the study and is based at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London – part of the National Centre for Earth Observation, says: “This summer’s low ice extent doesn’t seem to have been driven by warm weather, so the question is, was last winter’s thinning behind it?”

The team of researchers, including Dr Seymour Laxon and Andy Ridout, used satellites to measure sea ice thickness over the Arctic from 2002 to 2008. Winter sea ice in the Arctic is around two and half metres thick on average. Ice thickness can be calculated from the time it takes a radar pulse to travel from a satellite to the surface of the ice and back again.

The research - reported in Geophysical Research Letters - showed that last winter the average thickness of sea ice over the whole Arctic fell by 26cm (10 per cent) compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters, but sea ice in the western Arctic lost around 49cm of thickness. This region of the Arctic saw the North-West passage become ice free and open to shipping for the first time in 30 years during the summer of 2007.

The team is the first to measure ice thickness throughout the Arctic winter, from October to March, over more than half of the Arctic, using the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite. Before this, Christian Haas of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, had discovered thinner ice in a small region around the North Pole. Whilst the overall loss of older, thicker ice led researchers to speculate that Arctic sea ice had probably thinned, this is the first time scientists have been able to say for definite that the ice thinning was widespread and occurred in areas of both young and old ice.

“The extent of sea ice in the Arctic is down to a number of factors, including warm weather melting it as well as currents and the wind blowing it around, so it’s important to know how ice thickness is changing as well as the extent of the ice,” added Giles.

The team will continue to monitor the thickness of the ice over this coming winter. Laxon says: “We’ll be keeping our eyes on the ice thickness this winter as it’ll be interesting to see what happens after a second summer of low ice extent.”

The Envisat satellite that provided the UCL scientists with their data doesn’t cover the whole of the North Pole. Because of the satellite’s orbit, there’s a hole north of 81.5 degrees, which is about 600 miles shy of the North Pole. But a team, including Laxon, at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling has designed a satellite – CryoSat-2 – to plug this hole.

CryoSat-2 is the first radar satellite specifically designed to measure ice thickness. It will do this with greater resolution than is possible with Envisat and so will give scientists a much more detailed picture of what is happening to ice in the Arctic. CryoSat-2 is being prepared for launch at the end of 2009.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Giles, K. A., S. W. Laxon, and A. L. Ridout. Circumpolar thinning of Arctic sea ice following the 2007 record ice extent minimum. Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2008GL035710

Cite This Page:

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). "Arctic Sea Ice Is Suddenly Getting Thinner As Well As Receding." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027200309.htm>.
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). (2008, November 3). Arctic Sea Ice Is Suddenly Getting Thinner As Well As Receding. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027200309.htm
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). "Arctic Sea Ice Is Suddenly Getting Thinner As Well As Receding." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027200309.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins