BOSTON (CBS) – Since 1979, NASA satellites have been monitoring the Arctic ice shrink and grow, but this summer more ice melted than ever making it the lowest the ice has been in recorded history.
“It’s actually more than a record because in extent, it may be close to the 2007 record minimum, it is actually within one New York state of it. But the ice is thinner than it has ever been so we really have a lot less ice,” says NASA’s Dr. Tom Wagner.
Satellite data mapping the Arctic ice sheet during the past six months shows the ice well below the 30 year average to where the ice is usually at in it’s minimum extent in September.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Joyce reports
You may wonder why does this matter? or what sort of impact will this will have on sea level rise or global temperature?
“The sea ice is floating so it will not have much impact on sea level rise. But it has tremendous impact on weather and climate,” says Dr Wagner who is Cryosphere program manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“When you have the ice in place, it reflects it out to space. But when you take the ice away, that sunlight gets absorbed by the ocean and causes it to warm. The Arctic Ocean is like the motor for the refrigerator of the earth. Warm water comes in from the Pacific and Atlantic. It gets cooled off, becomes more dense, flows out and drives ocean circulation. That sets our weather and climate patterns for the whole planet.”
Though the satellite records are young, they also have records based on drill cores and sediments. Scientists say the melting which is occurring across the globe is significant for recent history in the past thousand years.
“Remember Greenland is losing ice from the south and north, the glaciers of Alaska are melting, as well as the glaciers of northern Canada and the permafrost, the ground around the Arctic is beginning to melt. We cannot assign it to one or two climatic factors. This really looks like overall warming.”