NASA’s QuickScat Satellite team reported yesterday that perennial sea ice that normally survives the summer melt season has abruptly shrunk by 14% between 2004 and 2005. The changes were most pronounced in the East Arctic Ocean, which lost almost 50% of its perennial ice over the same period.
“Recent changes in Arctic sea ice are rapid and dramatic,” said Son Nghiem, The JPL team leader. “If the seasonal ice in the East Arctic Ocean were to be removed by summer melt, a vast ice-free area would open up. Such an ice-free area would have profound impacts on the environment, as well as on marine transportation and commerce.”
Researchers indicate that if the sea ice cover continues to decline, the surrounding ocean will get warmer, further accelerating summer ice melts and impeding fall freeze-ups. This longer melt season will, in turn, further diminish the Arctic ice cover.