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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 03:52 PM
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Satellites and Submarines measure Arctic ice thickness

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/0909011433...

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While satellites provide accurate and expansive coverage of ice in the Arctic Ocean, the records are relatively new. Satellites have only monitored sea ice extent since 1973. NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has been on the task since 2003, allowing researchers to estimate ice thickness as well.

To extend the record, Kwok and Drew Rothrock of the University of Washington, Seattle, recently combined the high spatial coverage from satellites with a longer record from Cold War submarines to piece together a history of ice thickness that spans close to 50 years.

Analysis of the new record shows that since a peak in 1980, sea ice thickness has declined 53 percent. "It's an astonishing number," Kwok said. The study, published online August 6 in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that the current thinning of Arctic sea ice has actually been going on for quite some time.

"A fantastic change is happening on Earth it's truly one of the biggest changes in environmental conditions on Earth since the end of the ice age," said Tom Wagner, cryosphere program manager at NASA Headquarters. "It's not an easy thing to observe, let alone predict, what might happen next

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To put the recent decline in context, Kwok and Rothrock examined the recent five-year record from ICESat in the context of the longer history of ice thickness observed by U.S. Navy submarines.

During the Cold War, the submarines collected upward-looking sonar profiles, for navigation and defense, and converted the information into an estimate of ice thickness. Scientists also gathered profiles during a five-year collaboration between the Navy and academic researchers called the Scientific Ice Expeditions, or "SCICEX," of which Rothrock was a participant. In total, declassified submarine data span nearly five decadesfrom 1958 to 2000and cover a study area of more than 1 million square miles, or close to 40 percent of the Arctic Ocean.

Kwok and Rothrock compared the submarine data with the newer ICESat data from the same study area and spanning 2003 to 2007. The combined record shows that ice thickness in winter of 1980 averaged 3.64 meters. By the end of 2007, the average was 1.89 meters.

"The dramatic decrease in multiyear ice coverage is quite remarkable and explains to a large degree the decrease in total ice area and volume," Kwok said.

Rothrock, who has worked extensively with the submarine data, agrees. "This paper shows one of the most compelling signals of global warming with one of the greatest and fastest regional environmental impacts."
(more at the link)

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lysosome Donating Member (205 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 03:54 PM
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1. Or to sum it up : we're fucked!
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sfwriter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:05 PM
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2. Thanks... I was confused :-)
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