Arctic ice continues to thin, and thin, European satellite reveals
The thickness of the Arctic’s ice was whittled to a new recorded low this winter, according to data from the European Space Agency’s CyroSat mission.
The thickness of the Arctic’s ice was whittled to a new winter low, according to data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat mission. The ice’s volume, less than 15,000 cubic km between March and April, is a new data point in the long chronicle of Arctic ice decline, a process that scientists expect could be catastrophic for the planet.Skip to next paragraph
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The news from the ESA comes days after scientists reported that the ice’s decline this summer was less dramatic than the shrinkage during last year’s summer minimum. Rather than marking the resurgence of the Arctic ice, as some British newspapers have erroneously reported, the smaller-than-expected decline in breadth is understood by scientists as a small blip in what is otherwise a long-term ebbing of the ice.
And just as the ice is becoming less extensive, it is also becoming thinner – a trend that scientists point to as the most indicative sign that climate change is taking a toll on the Arctic.
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CryoSat is the second iteration of the ESA’s CryoSat mission, after the first satellite was destroyed during launch in 2005 and was replaced with CryoSat-2. The satellite has been in low Earth orbit since 2010, where it has over three consecutive years taken measurements of the Arctic ice using an interferometric radar altimeter, a highly sophisticated instrument that assesses the thickness of the ice based on radar data about the altitude of the spacecraft.
The data, gathered between October 2010 to April 2013, has shown that the Arctic’s ice is becoming leaner and leaner, and has also underpinned exacting research on just where, when, and how the ice is shedding mass.
“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,” Andrew Shepherd, a professor of the University of Leeds, told the audience at the Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Wednesday.