Scientists surprised by Arctic sea ice recovery in 2013

The Guardian reports, 20th July 2015: Ice in the Arctic staged a surprise revival in 2013, bucking the long-term trend of decline, according to the first analysis of the entire ice cap’s volume. The revival was the result of cooler temperatures that year and suggests that, if global warming was curbed, the Arctic might recover more rapidly than previously thought.

The shrinking Arctic ice cap is one of the best known impacts of climate change. The indication that it could be reversible is rare good news for a region where climate change has driven up temperatures far faster than the global average.

The extent of Arctic ice has shrunk by 40% since the late 1970s, when satellite measurements began. But getting comprehensive data on the thickness of the ice, rather than just its area, was difficult until the European Space Agency launched the Cryosat satellite in 2010.

The satellite’s 88 million measurements, analysed in Nature Geoscience, show that from 2010-12 the Arctic ice volume fell by 14%, in step with the warming trend of the last few decades. But in 2013, the ice volume jumped up by 41%.

“It’s fair to say that none of us were really expecting that,” said Rachel Tilling, at University College London and who led the study. But she dismissed the idea of a wider recovery of the ice cap, saying that climate change is still driving average temperatures up, despite significant variation from one year to the next. “It was a cold year — that happens.”

In fact, while colder than recent years, the temperature in 2013 would have been regarded as normal as recently as the late 1990s. “This allowed thick sea ice to persist north-west of Greenland because there were fewer days when it could melt,” said Tilling.

The research is significant as it shows the Arctic ice cap may be more resilient than expected. Tilling said: “You see Arctic sea ice as dwindling and in decline, but then there is a cold year and you get some of the ice back. It shows there is hope for Arctic sea ice, if you can turn the clock back to colder temperatures, which would need huge reductions in carbon emissions.”

Source: The Guardian, 20th July 2015. For the full details see
www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/20/arctic-sea-ice-volume-showed-strong-recovery-in-2013


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