NASA: Arctic snow has thinned significantly

From NASA Reports
NASA: Arctic snow has thinned significantly
More troubling news about the climate: Spring snow on sea ice in the Arctic has thinned by about a third in the Western Hemisphere and by half near Alaska during the last 50 years, according to new research.

     Led by NASA and University of Washington in Seattle researchers, the study tracks changes in snow depth over decades. Scientists analyzed NASA data along with instrumented buoys and ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the 1950s through the 1990s.
     “The snow cover is like a shield that can insulate sea ice,” said Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a co-author of the new study. “In this study, we had thousands of measurements of snow depth on sea ice to thoroughly validate NASA’s aircraft observations. We knew Arctic sea ice was decreasing, but the snow cover has become so thin that its shield has become a veil.”
     Since the Soviet period, the spring snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches in the western Arctic and from 13 inches to 6 inches in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, north and west of Alaska. The authors speculate that delayed freezing of the sea surface may contribute to the thinning trend, as heavy snowfalls in September and October now fall into the open ocean.
     What thinner snow cover will mean for sea ice is not certain. “The delay in sea ice freeze-up could be changing the way that heat is transported in the Arctic, which would, in turn, affect precipitation patterns. That’s going to be a very interesting question in the future,” said author Melinda Webster, an oceanography graduate student at the University of Washington.
     The study was published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


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