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Thu, 31 Mar 2016 @12:06; 591 hits


Arctic Sea Ice Is at Near Record Lows, NASA Says


The ice covering the Arctic is at near record lows this year, and this icy deficit may impact weather around the world, NASA reports.

Every March, the Arctic's sea ice reaches its maximum cover, both in area and thickness, before it recedes to its yearly minimum in September. Live Science spoke with NASA scientist Walt Meier yesterday (March 25) to learn more about the low sea-ice level and what it means for the rest of the planet.

This winter has been extremely warm, Meier said. "Temperatures have been 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit [5.5 to 8.3 degrees Celsius] above normal [in the Arctic]. And we see that reflected in the very low sea-ice cover that generally grows to its maxima [maximum] around this time of year." [On Ice: Stunning Images of Canadian Arctic]

NASA has been collecting data on Arctic sea-ice extent (a term that refers to area and volume) since the late 1970s. Last year's maximum was the fourth-lowest on record, and 2016's sea ice extent is also among the lowest that scientists have seen in about 40 years.

The Arctic's sea-ice extent varies from year to year, but overall, researchers have seen a worrisome downward trend over time.

"We've lost about two Texases' worth of sea ice during the wintertime," Meier told Live Science. "In the summer, it's even more extreme. We've lost almost double that or more in terms of the area covered."

Furthermore, the ice is thinner now than it has been in past years. "So, we've lost about 50 percent of the volume of the sea ice, or the mass of the sea ice," since record keeping began, he said.

These dramatic changes don't stay in the Arctic. Typically, white-colored ice reflects about 80 percent of the sun's rays back into space. With less ice cover, the ocean absorbs a lot more of these rays, which warms the water.

"As you warm [the water] up, you're changing the contrast with the lower latitudes," Meier said. "And that contrast helps set up things like the jet stream and storm tracks and general weather patterns." As the Arctic warms, weather patterns in lower latitudes will also be affected, he noted.

For instance, cold air usually stays in the Arctic because of polar vortex winds, which make a circular, counterclockwise trip around the North Pole. But as sea-ice extent diminishes, the Arctic warms, high pressures build and the polar vortex weakens, allowing cold air to flow southward and cause fiercely cold winters, according to Weather Underground.

Within the next few days, NASA has two missions planned to take a closer look at the Arctic: Operation IceBridge and Oceans Melting Greenland, which has the rather fantastic acronym of OMG. These campaigns will take scientists to the Arctic and Greenland by land and air. Once there, they'll take measurements of the region's sea ice and glacier thickness.

"Basically, we can see these changes, but we don't fully understand the processes that are causing these changes," Meier said. "And so these aircraft flights that we're doing will allow us to collect very good … detailed data so that we can better understand these changes and better predict what is going to happen in the future."

People can follow both of the missions at or on Twitter @NasaEarth.


- livescience -



Fri, 22 Apr 2016 @10:40; 653 hits


When is Earth Day 2016?

When is Earth Day 2016? This observance always falls on April 22. On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, and companionship with nature! Walk through the woods in search of emerging wildflowers and green moss. Go outside, no mat... more...

Wed, 6 Apr 2016 @15:22; 770 hits


Rare and endangered beasts captured on film
Indonesia’s most endangered species have been photographed in new camera trap project

Researchers in Indonesia have photographed some of the country’s rarest and most endangered species.... more...

Tue, 5 Apr 2016 @14:25; 656 hits


A Cloud Atlas Provides Clues to Life on Earth


By JOANNA KLEIN APRIL 4, 2016... more...

Thu, 31 Mar 2016 @12:06; 591 hits


Arctic Sea Ice Is at Near Record Lows, NASA Says

The ice covering the Arctic is at near record lows this year, and this icy deficit may impact weather around the world, NASA reports.... more...

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 @15:56; 622 hits


The terrifying tsunami that devastated Britain

Some 8,000 years ago, a tsunami with a run-up height of up to 25m swept Scottish islands and the coastline at 80mph. It may have been caused by climate change. Could it happen again?... more...

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 @14:54; 722 hits


Paris climate talks: In few hours, earth will know if its future is secure

Climate negotiators in Paris were faced with a make or break moment as they studied a final draft text that, within the next few hours, can either get translated into a historic global agreement or be the reason for a major international embarrassment.... more...


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