Rapid Decline of Oldest, Thickest Arctic Sea Ice Tracked in New Study


Photo Credit: christine zenino via Flickr/CC BY

Though a recent study called into question the current estimated rate of ice loss at the poles, there's no question that ice loss there is a major problem and a harsh reality in the Arctic. Case in point: a soon-to-be-released study scooped at Climate Progress reveals further evidence that the oldest, thickest see ice is currently undergoing a sharp drop off, and is being filled in by more ephemeral, seasonally occurring ice. What's more, is that judging by the data, it looks highly probable that 2010 brought the lowest levels of ice volume the Arctic has ever seen.CP provides this graph, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

From CP:

This is the end-of-winter sea ice extent in the Arctic Basin, broken down by age. NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve explains: "This figure would support thinning of the icepack over the last couple of decades since older ice tends to be thicker than younger ice. You can see in this figure how little of the really old, and thick ice there is left in the Arctic Basin."

In fact, the figure shows ice 5 years or older dropping from 800,000 sq-km in 2008 to 400,000 in 2009 to only 320,000 sq-km. Spring 2010 also saw a record low in the amount of ice 4 years or older.

Essentially, this serves as further proof that multi-year ice -- the thicker, older stuff -- is continuing to melt quickly, though increases in first year, or seasonal ice, can appear to 'balance it out' with extent, though not volume. This is why you hear some skeptics arguing that ice is actually growing in these regions, because though the ice area expanded for a couple of years, the volume decreased.

This new study supports the long-held, and scientifically supported assertion that ice volume is indeed decreasing -- and decreasing dramatically. In fact, as Romm writes over at CP, "it may be a while before we have a definitive statement, the likelihood seems high that we just set the record low Arctic sea ice volume -- possibly for several thousand years.

More on Arctic Ice Melt
Global Warming's Impact on Arctic Ice Explained (Video)
US Using CIA Spy Satellites to Study Ice Retreat in Arctic (Photos)
Arctic Ice Cover at Lowest Point in Past Several 1000 Years

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects

Best of TreeHugger