Arctic sea ice is at its thinnest starting this spring
The Arctic sea ice is at its thinnest ever starting this spring as researchers in the area say that over 90 percent of it is less than two years old, so it is thinner and much more vulnerable than any other ice that could exist there. The researchers are with NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center located in Colorado.
"We're not set up well for summertime," ice data center scientist Walt Meier said Monday. "We're in a very precarious situation."
The younger sea ice often melts in the spring and summer, but it needs to survive for more than two years so that it can become the thick type of ice that is necessary for the survival of the Arctic. However, due to the warmth of the past few year, the ice in the Arctic is now much younger and thinner, and therefore, less likely to survive.
The thick sea ice only covered an area of about 378,000 square miles this year, which was 43 percent less than last year.
"That thick ice really traps ocean heat; it keeps the planet in its current state of balance," said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Center for the Study of Earth from Space at the University of Colorado and NASA's former chief ice scientist. "When we start to diminish that, the state of balance is likely to change, tip one way or another."
The Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight away from the Earth, and the less there is, the more heat is absorbed into the ocean and the planet heats up. It also affects weather systems and habitat for animals like the Polar Bears.
The Arctic can be seen as a refigerator for the earth, and although the ice cover this year was 5.85 million square miles and was the highest amount out of the last five years, but it was still the fifth lowest since 1979.