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10 Things You Need to Know About Arctic Sea Ice

Environment  (tags: animals, climate-change, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, endangered, energy, environment, globalwarming, greenhousegases, habitatdestruction, healthconditions, nature, oceans, pollution, politics, protection, science, Sustainabililty )

- 1886 days ago -
Much of the Arctic is covered by ocean, which, in turn, is covered by a layer of ice for much of the year. The extent of the ice grows and recedes with the seasons.

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 11:48 am
(Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)

The Planet's White Cap

Much of the Arctic is covered by ocean, which, in turn, is covered by a layer of ice for much of the year. The extent of the ice grows and recedes with the seasons. But in recent years this cycle has shifted as melt has increased and the sea ice has crept back to unprecedented lows. Find out what’s going on and why it matters.

1) What is it?

Sea ice forms and floats in Arctic and Antarctic waters. By contrast, icebergs, glaciers and ice shelves all originate on land.

2) An Annual Cycle

In the Arctic, sea ice grows during the winter, usually reaching its greatest extent in March. Then it begins melting. The melt usually lasts into mid-September, when the sea ice reaches its lowest extent. Then, it begins to reform.

3) What Is Happening to It?

In recent years, the Arctic sea ice extent has been melting. Satellite records for Arctic sea ice extent go back into the late 1970s, but recent years have brought unprecedented lows. Above, the minimum sea ice extent on Sept. 10, 2010. The orange line indicates the median extent for that same day from 1979 to 2000. The black cross marks the geographic North Pole.

4) What is Causing the Melt?

Scientists attributed the increased loss of sea ice in recent years to a combination of natural fluctuations and to human-caused climate change, which is warming the planet. Natural events can influence the rate at which the melt occurs. For instance, a storm in early August 2012 may have caused the rate of sea ice retreat to spike

5) How Is Sea Ice Measured?

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center determines sea ice extent by looking at the proportion of Arctic water covered 15 percent or more by ice.

6) Who Needs It?

Arctic sea ice provides important habitat for walruses and polar bears. Recent declines in sea ice are creating problems for these animals. For instance, when the summer melt pushes sea ice unusually far from land over deep waters, walruses swarm onto beaches. Under normal conditions, the animals forage in shallower waters from the ice.

7) Bad for Bears

Sea ice provides important habitat for polar bears, and the loss of summer sea ice in recent years forces the bears to make long swims, which researchers worry could drown cubs.

8) Part of the Earth's Energy Budget

Because of sea ice is white, it reflects 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it back out into space. When sea ice melts, the dark ocean below it absorbs 90 percent of the energy. As a result, the oceans warm up, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. This is why scientists believe the loss of sea ice will aggravate global warming; more open water will absorb more energy absorbed into the natural system.

9) A Fabled Passage

Unusual large ice melt in recent years made the fabled Northwest Passage, which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a reality for Arctic waters. This image, taken on Aug. 3, 2012, shows that most of the ice in the Parry Channel, part of the Northwest Passage, has melted away. The passage first opened in 2007.

10) How about Antarctic Sea Ice?

Antarctic and Arctic sea ice are quite different. While Arctic sea ice forms over the ocean, Antarctic sea ice forms around a continent. Sea around much, but not all, of Antarctica has actually increased a small amount recently. Scientists believe the Arctic sea ice is more sensitive to the larger climate system than Antarctic ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Above, Antarctic sea ice.
***********Photos for each item shown on Visit Site along with additional links**************

By: Wynne Parry, | LiveScience Senior Writer | Live Science |

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:09 pm
Really good introduction to the topic and what human activity is doing to devastate that region. How many more Hurricane Sandy's and other disasters will it take for human beings to start caring about the future of their planet and of their own lives?

Nancy M (197)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 12:15 pm
Thanks Kit.

divergent r (309)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:10 pm
I read that 50% of what was once hard pack ice has melted into the sea forever.
When I lived on a boat in woods hole,Ma ,one summer
there was a Major NOAA research facility there.This was a long time ago, and they were already saying
the salinity of the water had been much reduced.It have only gotten worse since then.
Thanks Kit.....we will be seeing Mother Nature's wrath about what we have done to her for the rest of my time
here on Earth,if it still exists.

Yvonne W (229)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 2:44 pm
I remember reading in the '70's that when the Arctic loses enough ice it will throw the Earth wobble off enough to reset the North Pole & start another Ice Age - I wonder if that is still a viable theory? It seems to me that the world would try to rebalance itself, and it has done so several times already... scientists just haven't explained (to MY satisfaction anyway) how Quickly that happens.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 3:05 pm

It can be explained though it does take some reading - here's a quick and easy read about Polar Shifts:

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:00 pm

Craig P (52)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:01 pm
As we are beginning to observe cause and effect is real and will likely be graphic.

Cher C (1430)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:23 pm

Thnx sweetie!!!


Mike S (86)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:44 pm
Noted and thank you for this excellent article Kit.

Lin P (92)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 4:59 pm
Thanks Kit. The link to how stuff works is great. The interactions of the planet (and the universe) are incredible, intricate, beautiful, awe inspiring, but still simple. For every action, there is a reaction - somewhere, somehow, sometime. All are wonderful to see and to understand even a tiny bit. Often appreciated best from a distance, though the distance and view are short lived since we are a part Of the interactions.

marie C (163)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 5:35 pm
I learn so much from your articles Kit thank you

irene d (74)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 7:13 pm
Imagaes of polars bears swimming days on end to find ice is enough for me to stay committed to monitoring my carbon footprint.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 9:44 pm
Thank you! Good to know.
And thank you Kit B. for consolidating.

pam w (139)
Wednesday January 16, 2013, 10:11 pm
I wish it mentioned how ice holds methane in check....methane which, once released, will add to global warming.

Arthur S (88)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 1:18 am
Thsnk you Kit, I learned something new.

paul m (93)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 8:10 am

Noted & Thanks

paul m (93)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 8:11 am

Noted & Thanks...

Mary L (132)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 8:16 am
And yet, there is no will for any change in America well not enough to get people moving in a united way to change.

Tim C (2420)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:55 am

Victoria P (113)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 9:57 am
Noted with thanks Kit.....

David C (151)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 10:32 am
thanks, very good post...thanks....unfortunately, too many lazy/greedy/etc that don't see the negative consequences already hitting us.

Natalie V (27)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 2:50 pm

Jane M (20)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 3:07 pm

greenplanet e (155)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 3:07 pm
Polar ice is also important due to the albedo effect -- bouncing short-wave radiation back to space. Without the white ice, the dark sea will absorb more heat -- ie more global warming/climate change.

Lois J (63)
Thursday January 17, 2013, 4:37 pm
Noted w/thanks, Kit. It's disgusting that dirty energy corporations see this as an opportunity to make passages through this melting ice to use for oil drilling.

Gabriel R (111)
Friday January 18, 2013, 10:03 am
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