Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Is the ice in the Arctic Ocean getting thinner?

Date:
August 20, 2010
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic will reach its annual minimum in September. Forecasts indicate that it will not be as low as in 2007, the year of the smallest area covered by sea ice since satellites started recording such data. Nevertheless, sea ice physicists are concerned about the long-term equilibrium in the Arctic Ocean.

Propeller of Polar 5, the scientific aircraft of Alfred Wegener Institute, on its flight across Svalbard.
Credit: Ralf Rφchert, Alfred Wegener Institute

The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic will reach its annual minimum in September. Forecasts indicate that it will not be as low as in 2007, the year of the smallest area covered by sea ice since satellites started recording such data. Nevertheless, sea ice physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute are concerned about the long-term equilibrium in the Arctic Ocean.

They have indications that the mass of sea ice is dwindling because its thickness is declining. To substantiate this, they are currently measuring the ice thickness north and east of Greenland using the research aircraft Polar 5. The objective of the roughly one-week campaign is to determine the export of sea ice from the Arctic. Around a third to half of the freshwater export from the Arctic Ocean takes place in this way -- a major drive factor in the global ocean current system.

The question of when the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer has been preoccupying the sea ice researchers headed by Prof. Dr. Rόdiger Gerdes from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association for a long time now. Satellites have been recording the extent of the Arctic ice for more than 30 years. In addition to the area covered, the thickness of the ice is a decisive factor in assessing how much sea ice there is.

However, the thickness can only be determined locally, for example by means of the so-called EM-Bird, an electromagnetic measuring device which helicopters or planes tow over the ice. For Gerdes this is a very special job because he usually models his forecasts on his home computer. The campaign with the research aircraft Polar 5 of the Alfred Wegener Institute now takes him on an expedition in the Arctic for the first time. "I'm very keen on seeing the results of the sea ice thickness measurements," says Gerdes. "Only when we know the distribution of ice of varying thickness, can we calculate how much freshwater is carried out of the Arctic Ocean via ice."

About 3000 cubic kilometres of ice drift out of the Arctic Ocean every year, corresponding to around 2700 billion tons. The ice exports freshwater that reaches the Arctic Ocean via rivers and precipitation. This maintains its salt concentration, which has been constant over the long term. The temperature rise observed worldwide is especially pronounced in the Arctic latitudes. Researchers have been observing that the ice is getting thinner and thinner for several years now. As a result, it stores and exports less freshwater and the salt concentration (also referred to as salinity) of the Arctic Ocean declines.

On the one hand, this influences all living things that have adapted to the local conditions. On the other hand, changes in salinity also have an impact on current patterns of global ocean circulation and thus on meridional heat transport. In the TIFAX (Thick Ice Feeding Arctic Export) measurement campaign the researchers are primarily interested in ice that is several years old, several metres thick and occurs predominantly on the northern coast of Greenland. "Taking off on the measurement flights from Station Nord here is a special adventure," reports Gerdes from one of the northernmost measuring stations in the world. "Flying through virtually unsettled regions of the Arctic in the high-tech research aircraft is a stark contrast to my modelling work on the computer."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Is the ice in the Arctic Ocean getting thinner?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100820101356.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2010, August 20). Is the ice in the Arctic Ocean getting thinner?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100820101356.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Is the ice in the Arctic Ocean getting thinner?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100820101356.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) — Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — China's energy revolution could do more harm than good for the environment, despite the country's commitment to reducing pollution and curbing its carbon emissions. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
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