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Arctic Ice Melting at Growing Rate, NASA Finds

BY Admin  September 14, 2006 at 5:10 PM EST

Photo of melting sea ice courtesy of NOAA

Researchers using satellite data discovered the warming trend, which will be published in the Nov. 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

Previous studies focused on pieces of the Arctic region, but the new study is more comprehensive, drawing from surface temperatures taken from satellites between 1981 and 2001, reported the study’s author Dr. Josefino Comiso, senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The findings included the 9 percent rate of decline of the perennial, or year-round, sea ice. They also showed that in 2002, summer sea ice was at an all-time low, and early results for 2003 revealed a similar trend, according to NASA.

“In other words, we have not seen a recovery; we really see we are reinforcing that general downward trend,” said Mark Serreze, a scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The loss of Arctic ice could impact the global climate, since ice reflects sunlight and liquid water absorbs more solar energy, which leads to more ice melting.

Warmer oceans, in turn, cause changes in circulation and salinity, which alters marine habitats, said Michael Steele, senior oceanographer at the University of Washington, Seattle, according to a NASA statement.

Results varied by season and region, and showed some areas of cooling as well, according to the space agency. Annual trends ranged from a warming of 1.06 degrees Celsius over North America to a cooling of .09 degrees Celsius in Greenland.

The data came from thermal infrared readings from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, and the studies were funded by NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise.