NOAA Screen Shot

Video: Watch 27 Years of Arctic Ice Melt as It Gets Dangerously Younger

ICTMN Staff
2/4/15

Arctic ice is not only melting but also getting younger.

“Decades ago, the majority of the Arctic's winter ice pack was made up of thick, perennial ice,” says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the commentary to this animation based on data from Mark Tschudi, produced by the Climate.gov team. “Today, very old ice is extremely rare.”

While many humans love the idea of cheating age, it is in fact not a desirable option, especially when it comes to the ice covering the poles. Why is that bad?

“Older ice is thicker and tends to hang around longer; young ice is generally thinner and melts away every summer,” writes astronomer Phil Plait in his Slate column, Bad Astronomy. “That means that the year-round amount of ice is dropping, and dropping rapidly. As the Arctic warms, its ability not just to form ice but to keep it wanes.”

This has well documented and deleterious effects that are compounded as the phenomenon unfolds. Plait calls it a “runaway process,” with the ice melt exposing the darker water underneath, which aborbs rather than reflects sunlight, increasing water temperature even more and thus contributing to more melt.

The video below animates each year of that process from 1987 through the beginning of November 2014.

“The time to stick our heads in the sand about this is long, long gone,” Plait warned a year ago. The updated version is just as telling.

 

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