Arctic sea ice thinning twice as fast as thought, study finds
Sea ice across much of the Arctic is thinning twice as fast as previously thought, researchers have found.
Arctic ice is melting as the climate crisis drives up temperatures, resulting in a vicious circle in which more dark water is exposed to the sun’s heat, leading to even more heating of the planet.
The faster ice loss means the shorter north-eastern shipping passage from China to Europe will become easier to navigate, but it also means new oil and gas extraction is more feasible.
Calculating the thickness of sea ice from satellite radar data is difficult because the amount of snow cover on top varies significantly. Until now, the snow data used came from measurements by Soviet expeditions on ice floes between 1954 and 1991. But the climate crisis has drastically changed the Arctic, meaning this information is out of date.
The new research used novel computer models to produce detailed snow cover estimates from 2002 to 2018. The models tracked temperature, snowfall and ice floe movement to assess the accumulation of snow. Using this data to calculate sea ice thickness showed it is thinning twice as fast as previously estimated in the seas around the central Arctic, which make up the bulk of the polar region.