NASA Releases Time-Lapse of the Diminishing Polar Ice Caps in the Arctic

NASA has recently released a video that shows changes in polar ice levels in the Arctic Circle between the years of 1984 and 2016. The video states that a significant portion of the ice loss happened during the late 1980s and again in the 2000s.

There was a large portion of robust, aged portions of ice that was lost. The amount of aged ice decreased from 20% of the ice cap to only 3%. The starting size of the old ice was over 1.8 million square kilometers, and, by 2016 there were only 110,000 square kilometers left, as detailed in this report from Nasa.

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The significance of the older ice is that these portions of the ice cap prevent rapid loss of ice that happens from melting. To better understand this, imagine pouring water into a glass of ice. The less ice you have, the faster it melts when you pour more water into the glass. When there is more ice, the water is cooled more quickly, and less of the ice melts.

The size of the polar ice caps naturally fluctuates with the changes in seasons, reducing in size in the summer and growing in the winter. Scientists are observing the amount of ice that melts in the summer compared to previous years. With the decrease in old ice, there is less insulation to slow the melting of the polar ice cap in the summer. The water temperatures tend to be higher, and this further complicates the problem.

Another factor of the ice cap is its function of reflecting sunlight back into outer space. When light is reflected away from the Earth, it reduces the amount of heat that builds up. This helps keep the temperature from rising on the planet. Smaller ice caps are another factor that increases the overall temperature of the oceans and the planet.

Global warming is not the temperature that each person experiences on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it is the overall temperature of the Earth. A recent publication mentioned here at Science Alert announced that the average temperature of the Arctic near Greenland has seen a 40-degree rise in average temperature. A researcher at Columbia University revealed increased temperatures in Eastern and Central Greenland also.

These temperature changes are affecting about 45 percent of the ice in the Arctic area. These weather changes tend to happen in short time periods, but this is the most extreme warming trend that has been observed since 2012. This year, the previous record of ice melting is on track to be surpassed.

Do you see this as a sign that immediate actions need to be taken to slow climate change? Let us know your thoughts, and send links to this story to your friends on social media.