Even the staunchest Kyoto opponents have come around to the fact that global warming will be resulting in significant Arctic and Antarctic melting in the coming years. But even as large-scale melting occurs during the polar summers, wouldn't six months of sub-zero temperatures just refreeze at all in the winter?
Not quite, says Ted Scambos, Senior Research Scientist at the Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He explained that, over the past thirty years, the warming trend in the Arctic has started to melt the older foundation ice that has made up the Arctic Ocean for millenia. What refreezes in the winter is younger, thinner ice that readily melts again in the spring.
Though March of 2006 marked the lowest sea ice extent on record, Scambos' team has noted unnervingly thin ice cover this April. Ice older than two years now accounts for less than 10 percent of total Arctic ice. Looking ahead to warmer temperatures in the coming months, Scambos said "a warm trend is really going to take a bite out of sea ice over this summer."