Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hot: shrinking Arctic ice cap

In Hot: IPCC report leaked, I made a program note.
It's time to return to my original take on this month's Hot theme, climate change stories.
That's the first of at least six stories about climate from the past two weeks of ONDs.  Stay tuned and keep cool.
Here's the second.

LiveScience: Shrinking Arctic Ice Will Lead to Ice-Free Summers
By Denise Chow, Staff Writer
August 23, 2013 05:37pm ET
The Arctic is losing about 30,000 square miles (78,000 square kilometers) — an area roughly equivalent to the state of Maine — of sea ice each year, NASA scientists say. And while ice cover at the North Pole has rebounded from last year's record-setting lows, Arctic sea ice continues to retreat and thin at an alarming pace.

In 2012, the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean shrank to its lowest extent ever recorded. Measures of sea ice extent take into account the area of the Arctic Ocean on which ice covers at least 15 percent of the surface. This year's summer melting season is unlikely to break that record, but that does not necessarily herald good news, said Walt Meier, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"This is not going to be as extreme a year as last year, but we're still seeing a strong downward trend," Meier told LiveScience. "We're still at levels that are much lower than average."

The Arctic Ocean's blanket of sea ice covered 2.25 million square miles (5.83 million square kilometers) on Aug. 21. For perspective, when the smallest extent was recorded last year, the Arctic's icy cover measured 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers).
 If current melting trends continue, the Arctic region will see completely ice-free summers in the future, he said.

"At this point, we're looking at 'when' as opposed to 'if,'" Meier said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty, because there's a lot of variation year to year, but it's definitely coming, and coming sooner than we previously expected."

Ten years ago, researchers predicted the Arctic could experience ice-free summers by the end of the century. "Now, it's really looking pretty likely that it could come mid-century at the latest, and perhaps even within the next couple of decades," Meier said.
The video Melting Season: Summer 2013 Arctic Sea Ice Retreat accompanied the article.

This animation shows changes in Arctic sea ice cover between May 2013 and August 2013. The sea ice cap, which has significantly thinned over the past decade, can be seen retreating quickly during the first half of July.
I'll get the rest of the stories posted here by the end of the month.  In the meantime, stay tuned and keep cool.

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