Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has indicated a dramatic increase in sea ice extent in the Arctic regions. The growth over the past year covers an area of 700,000 square kilometers: an amount twice the size the nation of Germany.
With the Arctic melting season over for 2008, ice cover will continue to increase until melting begins anew next spring.
The data is for August 2008 and indicates a total sea ice area of six million square kilometers. Ice extent for the same month in 2007 covered 5.3 million square kilometers, a historic low. Earlier this year, media accounts were rife with predictions that this year would again see a new record. Instead, the Arctic has seen a gain of about thirteen percent.
William Chapman, a researcher with the Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois, tells DailyTech that this year the Arctic was "definitely colder" than 2007. Chapman also says part of the reason for the large ice loss in 2007 was strong winds from Siberia, which affect both ice formation and drift, forcing ice into warmer waters where it melts.
ecent short-term gains in Arctic ice coverage indicate nothing about the eventual state of the Arctic. Answers to the long-term status of the region lie in the realm of a scientific branch known as paleoclimatology. What does it tell us?
The Earth is currently in the geologic epoch known as the Holocene. This began nearly 12,000 years ago when the last ice age (more precisely, the Weichsal glacial) ended. Temperatures warmed, glaciers began to retreat, and the Arctic began to melt. This began what is called an interglacial: a warmer period between glaciation.
We tend to think of the poles as immutable, but geologically speaking, permanent polar ice is a rare phenomenon, comprising less than 10% of history. Icecaps form briefly between interglacials, only to melt as the next one begins -- this time around will be no different.