The Arctic ice has been at the center of environmental concern for a long time now. Ever since its ever-increasing decline in size came to a peak last year with the exposure of the fabled Northwest Passage, it has been the focus of scientific study and environmental bickering.
Traditionally March marks the time of year when the Arctic ice is at its highest extent after the Northern Hemisphere’s winter comes to a close. For 40 years NASA satellites have tracked the ice coverage of both Arctic and Antarctic.
So with March half way gone, what is the Arctic looking like?
Not good, is definitely a summation that will be used often. While it hasn’t dipped between any previous low records, it is still covering substantially less than in previous decades.
Shown in the graphic below, we can see that there is another problem to be concerned about. Not only is the sea-ice not covering as much as it should be, but the age of the ice is substantially less than previously recorded.
The age of sea-ice is important because with more summers under its belt, the stronger it gets. Thicker and older ice is better able to stand up to increasing temperatures during summer. However the graphic plainly shows a dramatic drop in ice age, especially in the amount of ice aged 6 years and more.
What this means is that the predominantly red colored ice coverage is at a higher risk of melting, if temperatures increase enough. It isn’t as strong and reliable as the older ice.
The future is unclear for the Arctic, with a string of colder seasons needed before any stability can be brought back to the region.
Live Science – Artic Ice Returns, Thin and Tentative
Photo Courtesy of fruchtzwerg’s world via Flickr
Graphic Courtesy of NSIDC, S. Drobot, University of Colorado, Boulder