Climate Science

Deicing the Arctic

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Science  15 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5597, pp. 1301
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5597.1301c

Arctic sea ice is an important influence on regional albedo and on ocean temperature, chemistry, biology, and circulation. Much of this ice is perennial, with an average thickness of 3 to 4 meters, and survives the summer melt because convection in the strongly stratified Arctic Ocean is weak. Global warming, including changes in sea surface temperature, is thought to be a threat to the continued presence of this ice.

Comiso presents a map of Arctic sea ice, using satellite microwave data from 1978 through 2000. The area covered perennially by sea ice has declined at a rate of 9% per decade during this period and, at this rate, will disappear altogether later this century, with drastic consequences for the Arctic climate system. Surface ice temperatures in the Arctic are negatively correlated with perennial ice area and are increasing at the rate of 1.2 K per decade, which implies longer melt periods and potentially greater rates of ice loss in the future. — HJS.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 1956 (2002).

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