6/14/2010 6:08:02 PM

May Arctic Ice Loss Sets Record

Chart showing sea ice lossesSea ice losses in the Arctic took place at a faster clip than any May on record since satellite monitoring began more than 30 years ago, suggesting that this summer's meltdown could once again set records.

According to a June 8th report by the National Snow & Ice Data Center, contributing factors included:

  • Thinner than normal winter ice due to the cumulative loss of thick, multi-year ice over the past decade. Thin ice melts more quickly than the thick, multi-year ice once prevalent in the Arctic.
  • Warmer than normal May weather in the Arctic, with temperatures two to five degrees above normal

The center reported that the ice loss in May averaged 68,000 kilometres a day, "... the highest for the month of May during the satellite record." It also noted that:

  • Ice loss was greatest in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, "indicating that the ice in these areas was thin and susceptible to melt."
  • A number of polynas, or areas of open water, opened up in regions north of Alaska, in the Canadian Arctic Islands, and in the Kara and Barents and Laptev seas.

The center emphasized that it's important to track sea ice volume as well as the ice extent. Taken together, they provide a complete picture of sea-ice decline. "Numerous studies indicate that sea-ice thickness and volume have declined along with ice extent," the center said in its report.

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