Climate change
Rapidly melting Arctic ice may break 2012 record in summer
© RIA Novosti. Valeriy Melnikov

Rapidly melting Arctic ice may break 2012 record in summer

The speed at which the Arctic ice cover is melting suggests that the Arctic polar cap may shrink to a record low in the summer, past the historic levels recorded in 2012, RIA Novosti reported citing the press service of the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research.

"In many regions of the Arctic, new ice only formed very slowly due to the particularly warm winter. If we compare the ice thickness map of the previous winter with that of 2012, we can see that the current ice conditions are similar to those of the spring of 2012 — in some places, the ice is even thinner," said Marcel Nicolaus from the Helmholtz Center in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Nicolaus and his colleagues arrived at that conclusion after studying data obtained by the CryoSat-2 satellite, using snow buoys and measurements taken on land and in the water by the coast of Spitsbergen Island.

The readings show that the temperature on Spitsbergen Island and in several other regions of the Arctic was 8 degrees Celsius above average in February.

According to Nicolaus, high temperatures had an unexpected effect on the ice. Despite NASA forecasts, the temperature turned out to be too low to melt fresh ice and snow on the surface of the ice cap. At the same time, it proved enough to significantly slow down the processes of ice melting and polar glacier restoration that began last summer when the melting almost reached the record of 2012.

"While the landfast ice north of Alaska usually has a thickness of 1.5 meters, our US colleagues are currently reporting measurements of less than one meter. Such thin ice will not survive the summer sun for long," added climate researcher Stefan Hendricks, a colleague of Nicolaus.

Researchers cannot give an exact forecast for the summer as yet. Everything will depend on the weather. They predict that the 2012 record will be surpassed if the weather is unfavorable. They expect to see zero growth in the Arctic ice volume this summer. In 2013 and 2014, the growth in ice thickness was caused by relatively cold winters.