Arctic Snow Extent April to June 2013

© NASA

1/8/2014 3:36:11 PM

Melting Spring Snow Inhibits Arctic's Ability to Cool Planet

Even as the ominously named "Polar Vortex" is gripping the continental United States, the Arctic is warming up.

We've reported the loss of September sea ice here and its deleterious effects on polar bears, other Arctic life, and the planet. Now, a report from NASA explains that there are additional seasonal problems in the Arctic.

Between 1979 and 2013, June snow cover extent dropped 19.9 percent per decade. This loss is greater than the loss of September sea ice, which decreased at a rate of 13.7 percent per decade over the same time period.

From dark, frozen and snow-covered in winter to lush, light, and snow-free in summer, the change in seasons in extreme in the Arctic. These changes are critical to the overall health of the planet. Snow and ice reflect sunlight back into space, cooling the planet.

"This climate cooling is greatest in the spring (March to June), when sunlight returns to the Arctic and the snow and ice have only just started melting. For this reason, any changes in spring snow and ice cover have a greater impact on Earth's climate than changes at other times of the year."

With less snow to reflect heat into space, the Arctic is unable to serve as the planet's air conditioning system and that means a warmer planet overall and more climate chaos.

Read more on NASA's website.

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