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Arctic Melting Is Lasting Longer And Affecting More Ice: Study

The Arctic melt season is averaging five days longer with each passing decade, a new study by NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center reveals. And with more ice-free days, the water (which is darker than the surrounding ice) is absorbing the sun’s heat and accelerating the process. This means the Arctic ice cap has shrank by as much as four feet.

The sobering news comes following a study of satellite data from 1979 to 2013. By the end of this century, scientists believe, there will be a fully melted Arctic Ocean during the entire summer. And the news also comes in the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) released its own report on global warming.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” stated Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of a new study. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

The research further revealed that solar radiation absorption depends on when the melt season begins; this is particularly true since the sun rises higher during the spring, summer and fall than in the winter. It’s still hard to predict when things will melt or freeze, however, since this depends on weather.

An image mosaic of ice breaking up in the Arctic Ocean's Canada Basin on March 28, 2014. Image taken by Operation IceBridge's Digital Mapping System. Credit: Digital Mapping System/NASA Ames

An image mosaic of ice breaking up in the Arctic Ocean’s Canada Basin on March 28, 2014. Image taken by Operation IceBridge’s Digital Mapping System. Credit: Digital Mapping System/NASA Ames

“There is a trend for later freeze-up, but we can’t tell whether a particular year is going to have an earlier or later freeze-up,” Stroeve said. “There remains a lot of variability from year to year as to the exact timing of when the ice will reform, making it difficult for industry to plan when to stop operations in the Arctic.”

Data was collected with NASA’s (long deceased) Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer and instruments aboard Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft.

“When ice and snow begin to melt, the presence of water causes spikes in the microwave radiation that the snow grains emit, which these sensors can detect,” NASA stated. “Once the melt season is in full force, the microwave emissivity of the ice and snow stabilizes, and it doesn’t change again until the onset of the freezing season causes another set of spikes.”

The research has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: NASA

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • FarAwayLongAgo April 2, 2014, 12:22 PM

    Why are climatists spamming Dailyspace with claims which are totally unrelated to astronomy and space exploration? Does it have somehting to do with how this blog is money funded? Or is there any other explanation, like someone who’s involved got a personal hobby and misuses his/her position to promote her own singleminded point of view? I’m getting more and more curious.

    Would this blog be equaly available for occasional entries about the advantages of vacuum cleaners made by brand name X!? Given some money under the table.

    • postman1 April 2, 2014, 4:43 PM

      LOL!

    • Aqua4U April 2, 2014, 5:17 PM

      Ahh…. We see that Torbjorn Larrson is still around but with a new ‘handle’. At the very least he can be depended upon to make inflammatory statements. Payola? Really Torbjorn, such statements make you look kind of silly if not downright paranoid. WHERE do you think most of the relevant data originated? That’s right, from satellite obs. Which is WHY it is reported here.

  • agmartin April 2, 2014, 12:24 PM

    Looking forward to the NW passage being open for shipping.

  • Paul Gracey April 2, 2014, 3:36 PM

    To the seemingly automatic anonymous and disparaging comments that get posted so quickly to any climate change related post here and elsewhere on the web, might I humbly suggest that those posters check under their own table for the pay packet that makes them so very able to respond before mere interested mortals such as myself have the spare time for a response.
    I worked on Earth Sciences Satellites twenty years ago shortly before retirement, so I no longer have any pecuniary interest. The questions we sought to answer about the extent of anthropogenic global warming back then have sadly been shown to be all too true. Head-in-the-sand responses will no longer be adequate, especially for those whose children will live with the consequences.

    • postman1 April 2, 2014, 4:50 PM

      Perhaps this has something to do with the record amounts of ice being recorded year after year in the Antarctic? Or, perhaps it has something to do with the numerous reports of record cold and snow during the current winter/spring? Maybe due to the lack of heating for the past seventeen years?
      Just wondering.

      • SupernovaElite April 2, 2014, 7:16 PM

        We havent had any snow here this winter, and i live in Norway. So with your analogy, global warming is in full swing. Seriously, you watch too much ‘faux’ news.

        • mewo April 2, 2014, 8:13 PM

          I live in Australia and we’ve just come off another record hot summer.

    • Aqua4U April 2, 2014, 5:22 PM

      Agrees with Paul!

  • wreckhur April 6, 2014, 10:55 PM

    Why do we never discuss the fact that the climate changes constantly. Like oh I don’t know, how many ice ages have their been, how many global extinctions, how many extremely high Co2 readings in ice core samples and resultant high temperatures that have lasted for tens of thousands of years? We do have ice cores from numerous glaciers and ice sheets you know. Why is that data always ignored in favor of the Satellite data from the last 30 or 40 years. Thats fringe science. Using only what you want, not all of the data available and that is why a lot of people get bent out of shape.

    It drives me insane every time I hear that it’s all OUR fault. Yes we are definite contributors to climate change. But the Earth has seen countless climate changes as well, it’s always happening. What about the volcanoes that spew millions of tons of ash and noxious gasses? Meteors breaking up in the atmosphere? Decaying plant and animal life? Underwater vent’s? Do they have NO role in this? North America had a record setting winter… Again. Is there climate change yes. But get off your high horse and accept that the planet changes on it’s own as well.

    Put the two together and more people will listen, but saying it’s all humans fault… Well there is only one solution to that!

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