Arctic sea ice is melting twice as fast as previously thought. So say scientists from University College London in a new study, the results of which were published in the journal The Cyrosphere.
The study researchers concluded that from 2002 to 2018, ice thickness in four of the seven marginal seas in the Arctic decreased 60 to 100% faster than previously thought. They rely on new “more realistic” data about the thickness of snow layers on ice, which takes into account the effects of climate change.
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The thickness of sea ice is estimated based on the ice that rises above the water. However, his measurement is distorted by the amount of snow on the ice pack. “Previous calculations of sea ice thickness were based on a snow map that was last updated 20 years ago,” said Ruby Mallett, who led the study. “While sea ice continues to form later in the year, surface ice has less time to accumulate. Our calculations take this decrease into account for the first time and indicate that sea ice is melting faster than we thought.”
The researchers used a satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA) to calculate the thickness of the ice above the water. They supplemented these estimates with their new snowfish model, which was developed in collaboration with Colorado State University.
Mallet said sea ice is a “sensitive indicator of the health of the Arctic.” “It’s important because the thick ice acts as an insulating blanket that prevents the ocean from overheating in the winter, and protects the ocean from the sun in the summer.” Thin ice is also less likely to survive during the summer melt.