Nasa spot huge loss of Arctic ice

The Arctic lost nearly a quarter of its permanent sea ice cover over the past two winters, space scientists have revealed. The drastic 23 per cent reduction was the fastest ever on record and equivalent to losing an area the size of California and Texas combined.

An artist's impression of QuikScatIt was measured by Nasa’s QuikScat satellite combined with observations made by the Arctic Buoy Programme. It leaves the total amount of Arctic ice at its smallest level ever.

A team led by Son Nghiem of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California, discovered the latest evidence of the effects of global warming.

The latest severe loss continues a trend of rapid decreases in perennial ice during the current decade, they will report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters this week.

QuikScat can identify and map different classes of sea ice, including older, thicker perennial ice and younger, thinner seasonal ice. The scientists observed less perennial ice cover in March 2007 than ever before, with the thick ice confined to the Arctic Ocean north of Canada.

Consequently, the Arctic Ocean was dominated by thinner seasonal ice that melts faster. This ice is more easily compressed and responds more quickly to being pushed out of the Arctic by winds.

Nghiem said: “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic.” When it reached warmer waters, it melted.

Our picture is a Nasa artist’s impression of QuikScat in orbit.

• Skymania welcomes your comments on our stories! For more space reading, check out the Skymania stores in the USA, the UK, Canada and France. They are powered by Amazon so you can buy with confidence.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

Get free Skymania news updates by email

Sign up for alerts to our latest reports. No spam ever - we promise!


Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *