NASA Scientists See Hastened Arctic Warming

Recent satellite data from the U.S. Space agency NASA indicate that sea ice in the Arctic and Greenland is melting at a faster rate than previously projected.  VOA's Paul Sisco has the story.

Climate scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, outside Washington, say the Arctic Ocean could be mostly ice free in late summer 2013. 

"The sea ice is decreasing faster than all the models predicted," says Jay Zwally, the ice satellite project scientist at NASA Goddard, "We not only have the warming of the atmosphere, we have a warming of the ocean that is affecting this.  It has been surprising to everybody, this decrease in area. This is a marked departure, and this is suggesting to us that maybe we are getting at this tipping point."

"If you push something like a glass to a certain point, and leave go, it will come back; but if you push it too far, past a tipping point, then it is gone," he explains.  "Now what is happening in the Arctic Ocean is the sea ice is getting thinner; it is decreasing in area.  This opens up the ocean to more heating from the sun, so it is very likely that the Arctic Sea ice is now at this tipping point, where even if the climate doesn't warm any more, stays as it is, most of the sea ice will decrease and disappear at the end of the summer."

"Up through 2006, in September we've been losing ice at the rate of a little more than nine percent per decade,” says Mark Serreze, a senior researcher at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. “That's equivalent to about 100,000 square kilometers per year, which is quite a bit. What's happened in 2007 has just sent an exclamation point to this."

This satellite image from NASA shows the average sea ice in the Arctic over the last 30 years. The green area indicates the melt at the end of last summer.

Zwally says there is clear indication that the remaining is thinning. "The key thing is that this area that is remaining is now thinner," he said. "There used to be a lot of ice here that was three- four, five, six meters thick, and most of that is gone."

All climate models have variability and the possibility that melting trends may lead to results less severe than predicted.

"The other possibility is that it could be worse than the models predict and this is an example, a specific example of the sea ice in the Arctic where what is happening, what we see with the satellite is actually worse than the models predicted," he adds, and he says those models are supported by ground based observations and measurements.


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs