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Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded by Satellites: Scientists

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September

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Ice Loss in Antarctic Sea, VOA
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Washington, March 23, 2017: While Arctic Sea ice reached this year a record low wintertime maximum extent, sea ice around Antarctica also hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, scientists have said.

In February this year, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was at its lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979, said scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Total polar sea ice covered 16.21 million square km, which is two million square km less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 — the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico, the study said.

“It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica,” Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA release on Wednesday.

“However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability. We’ll need to have several more years of data to be able to say there has been a significant change in the trend,” Meier added.

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September.

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As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March.

The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped –it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February.

This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavourable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic, the scientists said.

This year’s maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 14.42 million square kilometres, is 97,00 square kilometres below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 1.22 million square kilometres smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010, according to the scientists. (IANS)

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Greenland Is Melting

If all the ice covering the world’s largest island were to thaw, sea levels would rise roughly 6 meters

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FILE - An iceberg is seen melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland, July 19, 2007. VOA
  • Greenland is slowly melting
  • This melting adds roughly 1 millimetre of water per year to global sea levels
  • This can mean huge floods in coming years

Like a bowling ball on a skating rink, the black geodesic sphere of the East Greenland Ice-Core Project’s communal living space stands out against the endless white nothingness of the Greenland ice sheet.

 

Iceberg melting can cause huge floods in coming years.
Iceberg melting can cause huge floods in coming years.

But the real action at East GRIP is under the surface. Researchers are drilling through more than 2.5 kilometres of ice, down to the bedrock below. The ice is sliding fast — for a glacier — toward the sea. Scientists here want to know why. The answer may hold clues to the future of the world’s coastal cities.

Greenland is melting. As it melts, it adds roughly 1 millimetre of water per year to global sea levels. And the pace of melting is quickening.

If all the ice covering the world’s largest island were to thaw, sea levels would rise roughly 6 meters. Scientists don’t know how fast, or how likely, that is to happen. East GRIP is looking for evidence to inform both those questions.

The answers are a matter of growing urgency. The seas are rising faster. And the same processes at work on Greenland’s glaciers at the top of the world could send vast sections of Antarctica’s ice sheet into the sea as well, raising ocean levels even further.

Melting of icebergs is increasing sea levels every year. VOA
Melting of icebergs is increasing sea levels every year. VOA

Also Read: Earth was like Mars? Experts find fossils in Greenland dating back to 3.7 Billion Years

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Scientists studying the rapid changes gather in the small Greenland town of Kangerlussuaq, a former U.S. military base built during World War II. Through the Cold War, this outpost supplied remote radar sites watching a nuclear attack coming over the pole.

These days, military transport planes fly scientists and their equipment across 1,000 kilometres of Arctic ice to East GRIP. They make research possible here and at other far-flung scientific outposts on the vast Greenland ice sheet.

Departing from Kangerlussuaq, VOA visited East GRIP and other remote corners of Greenland with the 109th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air National Guard for a firsthand look at science in action at the leading edge of climate change. VOA