According to scientists, the continuous melting of the Earth’s ice caps has been the main effect global warming has had on the Earth. Though, new research conducted has shown that ice not only covers less area on the Earth, but it is also getting substantially thinner. A new study shows evidence that global warming has caused Arctic ice thickness in the seas at the Earth’s poles to have decreased by 65 percent since 1975. This makes Arctic ice more vulnerable to melting, possibly altering and even irreversibly damaging local ecosystems.
The new data collected from a wide array of sources. including satellites, ships, and local measurements, suggests that the thinning of Arctic ice is happening at at much quicker rate than previously modeled by scientists and climatologists. Beforehand, studies that measured the melting of ice have never been undertaken with such a range of sources that have been used to analyze one aspect and region that has been affected by global warming.
Ron Lindsay and Axel Schweiger, researchers at the University of Washington, according to them, models show that, “sea ice in the central region of the Arctic Ocean has thinned by 65 percent since 1975.” Moreover, they found that when the Arctic ice gets to its thinnest point in the year, during the late summer months, the thickness was down by an unbelievable 85 percent.
Lindsay and Schweiger stated the findings are very important to find whether the central part of the aforementioned ocean basin may be devoid of ice for a few months during the year by the end of the century. Though, this is very hard to tell with hands-on measurements. While the breadth of the Arctic ice is unmistakably viewable from satellites and even high-altitude aircraft, the thickness of the ice is much harder to measure. This is why the researchers say measuring the thickness and not the width of Arctic ice is more important to finding out how much volume has been lost. Though, when it comes to estimating the thickness of the ice, satellites attempt to differentiate between the differences in the thickness of just a couple of feet and inches, from above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Several satellites taken continuously-accurate measurements, including numerous aircraft, and sea-faring vessels. Every one of these vehicles used a different type of method in measuring, producing new data that is not as easy to consolidate with others, as many would think.
The researchers have now attempted to settle some of the measurement vehicle differences and get them into one system. He said the main goal, “is to get a big view of what is happening to the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean,” based on more concrete evidence than just on a computerized model. What the researchers discovered was alarming.
The researchers found that the annual average of thickness in Arctic sea ice over the entirety of the Arctic basin has been thinning at a rate of nearly 18 inches every 10 years since 2000. In the years since 1975, the average of sea ice thickness per year in the central region of the Arctic basin had decreased from well over 10 feet to only four feet. This 65 percent decline was nearly twice the rate that was calculated to have happened between 1975 and 2000.
Although the compilation of data has yet to be perfected, scientists like Lindsay and Schweiger are making good headway. As a result of their study, the thickness of Arctic ice has been thinning, an alarming thought. The researchers believe something needs to be done quickly to slow the onset of global warming so that the thinning of the ice cap in the Arctic does not cause coastal floods all over the world.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center – Flickr License
Photo by David Astley – Flickr License