Offering new insights into our fragile polar regions, ESA’s CryoSat mission has provided three consecutive years of Arctic sea-ice thickness measurements, which show that the ice continues to thin.
Although satellites have witnessed a downward trend in the extent of sea ice over the last two decades, it is essential to have accurate information on the mass or volume of ice being lost. This is a more accurate measure of the changes taking place.
Along with observations of ice extent, CryoSat’s measurements of thickness now span from October 2010 to April 2013, allowing scientists to work out the real loss of ice, monitor seasonal change and identify trends. Prof. Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, UK, said, “CryoSat continues to provide clear evidence of diminishing Arctic sea ice.
“From the satellite’s measurements we can see that some parts of the ice pack ice have thinned more rapidly than others, but there has been a decrease in the volume of winter and summer ice over the past three years.
“The volume of the sea ice at the end of last winter was less than 15 000 cubic km, which is lower than any other year going into summer and indicates less winter growth than usual.”
While it seems unlikely that a record minimum of sea-ice extent will be set this September, the thinner ice at the start of summer could mean that the actual volume of ice may reach a new low.
Rachel Tilling, PhD student at University College London, who is working with the CryoSat data stated, “Readings from CryoSat in October, when the ice starts to refreeze, will confirm this either way.”