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NASA: Thickest parts of Arctic ice cap melting faster

Ice decline from 1980 to 2012 (Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)

A new NASA study reveales that the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than the younger and thinner ice at the edges of the Arctic Ocean’s floating ice cap.

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The new research takes a closer look at how multi-year ice, ice that has made it through at least two summers, has diminished with each passing winter over the last three decades. Multi-year ice extent is diminishing at a rate of -15.1 percent per decade, the study found.

The decline in extent and area of multi-year ice has accelerated during the last decade.

Read also: Alarm: Ice free North Pole by 2015

The thicker ice, known as multi-year ice, survives through the cyclical summer melt season, when young ice that has formed over winter just as quickly melts again. The rapid disappearance of older ice makes Arctic sea ice even more vulnerable to further decline in the summer, said Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and author of the study, NASA’s web site reads.

“The average thickness of the Arctic sea ice cover is declining because it is rapidly losing its thick component, the multi-year ice. At the same time, the surface temperature in the Arctic is going up, which results in a shorter ice-forming season,” Comiso said.

Multi-year sea ice hit its record minimum extent in the winter of 2008. That is when it was reduced to about 55 percent of its average extent since the late 1970s, when satellite measurements of the ice cap began. Multi-year sea ice then recovered slightly in the three following years, ultimately reaching an extent 34 percent larger than in 2008, but it dipped again in winter of 2012, to its second lowest extent ever.

Read also: Kara Sea ice-free