Scientists have observed a constant decline in the Arctic sea ice coverage over the last few decades, but a new study from NASA suggests that the trend could slow, thanks to an increase in ice growth during winter season.
While the new finding is definitely something to cheer about, it doesn't suggest that the Arctic ice cap has started recovering from earlier melt. Instead, this seasonal ice growth could only delay the demise of the ice cap in the Arctic for a few more decades, according to scientists.
"This increase in the amount of sea ice growing in winter doesn't overcome the large increase in melting we've observed in recent decades," said Alek Petty, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study.
Petty says the overall thickness of Arctic sea ice is currently decreasing and is projected to decline further over the coming decades.
According to NASA, the Arctic has lost about two-thirds of its sea ice cover thickness on average since 1958. Now, 70 per cent of the sea ice here comprises of the seasonal ice, which forms during winter and melts in summer.
In the current study, the research team used climate models, in combination with Arctic's sea ice thickness data gathered by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite to investigate how sea ice thickness varies across the region.
The findings revealed that in 1980s, the average thickness of the Arctic sea ice was 6.6 feet in October, and about 3.3 feet of extra ice would form in winters.
Now, that rate of seasonal ice growth has increased in some Arctic regions, and the trend is expected to continue for some more decades.
Speaking more precisely, while the average thickness of sea ice could decrease to about 3.3 feet in October over the coming decades, some Arctic regions could also see an extra ice growth of up to five feet during winters.
According to Alek Petty, this is an example of negative feedback, and in absence of this effect, Arctic ice would melt at a much faster rate.
"Unfortunately, the positive feedback loop of summer ice melt and increased solar absorption associated with summer ice melting still appears to be dominant and continue to drive overall sea ice declines," Petty added.
The new study has been accepted for publication in journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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