The thickness of the sea ice in the Arctic coastal regions could be reducing twice as fast as previously thought, the European Space Agency (ESA) warned this Thursday in a statement on the results of the analysis of data from the CryoSat and Envisat satellites.
“The decrease in ice on Earth is undoubtedly one of the biggest victims of climate change. However, calculating the amount of ice we are losing is a challenge,” ESA stressed in the note.
The European agency explained that while tracking the land and ocean surface covered by ice is simple thanks to satellite images, specific measurements are needed to know the thickness of that ice and see how the actual volume is changing.
The authors of a study published recently in the journal The Cryosphere, indicated that the device that had been used had become obsolete and has been replaced by a new computer model that calculates depth and density by combining data from air temperature, snowfall and movement of ice.
Using the results of the snow map and radar observations from CryoSat and Envisat, the scientists calculated the global rate of decrease in sea ice thickness as well as the variability of the thinning from year to year.
His conclusion is that this ice is reducing at a rate between 70% and 100% higher than had been estimated. In the coastal areas of Laptev, Kara and Chukchi, the decrease reaches, respectively, 70%, 98% and 110%.
“The thickness of sea ice is a sensitive indicator of the health of the Arctic. Thicker ice acts as an insulating blanket, preventing the ocean from heating the atmosphere in winter and protecting it from the sun’s rays in summer,” explained the researcher Robbie Mallett of University College London.
Mallet noted that the latest sea ice thickness calculations dated back to a snow map 20 years ago.
Professor Julienne Stroeve of the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling (CPOM) considered that this work could be used to better assess climate model projections on the effects of global warming in the Arctic.
This region “is warming at a rate three times higher than the world and whose millions of square kilometers of ice are essential to keep the planet cool,” he added.
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