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3.3.2: Sea Ice

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    In addition to land-based glaciers and ice sheets, the Arctic and Antarctic regions also contain sea ice, which is ice that forms over the open ocean and which often experiences large seasonal changes. Sea ice in Antarctica is relatively stable and experiencing minimal loss (Fig

    Figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center1

    Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is experiencing significant melting (Fig Ice is very reflective and absorbs very little of the sun’s energy; however, liquid water absorbs more than it reflects. Consequently, melting of sea ice leads to a feedback loop in which more open water leads to warmer surface water, which melts more ice and leads to more open water and more melting of sea ice.

    Figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center1

    The extent of sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean is most clearly visible in the comparison between the record minimum year of 2012, and an average historical year, such as 1984 (Fig Melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is so severe that scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in September by the year 2050.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Extent of Arctic sea ice in September (annual minimum) in 2012 (left) and 1984 (right). Minimum extent in 1984 matched the overall average for the time period 1979-2000. White circles in the center of the ice indicate data gaps from the incomplete paths of satellites. Images from NASA2.

    This page titled 3.3.2: Sea Ice is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Laci M. Gerhart-Barley.

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