What's really happening to Arctic ice?

There’s been a sharp gain in Arctic sea ice since the summer record minimum in September 2012, which Real Science has claimed to be the biggest recovery on satellite record.


But a team team of scientists led by University College London yesterday reported there was a substantial decline in ice volume during the previous two winters.


The analysis uses data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Cryosat satellite, using its high resolution radar altimeter.


This confirms reports that alongside the decline in the spatial extent of ice which has been widely reported using satellite data since 1979, there is crucially much less multi-year (year-round) ice.


This is important, since multi-year ice is older and hence thicker and slower to melt in summer.


First year ice, which is forming now in the Arctic following the record ice-loss this summer, is thinner and much more prone to melting.


Nevertheless it’s been an impressive recovery in Arctic sea ice since last summer.


It’s important to us here in the UK because scientists believe what’s happening in the Arctic may have a direct impact on our summer climate.


According to research at Sheffield University, which I wrote about here, the decrease in Arctic ice extent may be to blame for our run of poor summers – and if it continues, cool wet summers may be something we have to get used to.


Only time will tell whether the recovery in sea ice extent so far this winter is the start of a new trend, or, as most scientists believe, just one of the many false dawns when it comes to talk of a proper meaningful recovery in Arctic sea ice.


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