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Satellites track Arctic sea loss impacted by waves

Sea level is rising and ice melt is occurring faster and earlier each spring in the Arctic. National Geographic Daily News reports yesterday that waves are impacting the breakup of ice which has never before been a factor. This drastic change signals an additional sign of climate change and global warming.

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Measurements from the National Snow and Ice Data Center have been made and studied closely the first half of 2014. The second half of June brought the sea loss in the Arctic as the second fastest in the satellite data record. This led the beginning of July to fall to almost two standard deviations below the long-term average recorded for 1981-2010. This translated to a 21 percent faster melt than that long-term average.

Due to the decrease of ice it sets the stage for faster ice melt according to Jim Thomson of the University of Washington in Seattle and Erick Rogers with the Naval Research Laboratory (NLR) in Mississippi. According to their post in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters, Thomson writes that, "It is possible that the increased wave activity will be the feedback mechanism which drives the Arctic system toward an ice-free summer.”

Without the ice cover, the wind will blow across the distance farther and create higher waves which in turn will breakup any floating ice sections.

Thomson and Rogers see higher waves, more water and death to polar bears. The situation for the polar bear is causing a movement inland of the polar bears in order to seek animals and plant vegetation for survival. The breaking of the ice does not allow the polar bear to capture its sea food and allows it to become easy prey to the Orca which leaps out of the water and captures the polar bear. The hunter becomes the hunted.

Emma Mariss has written an article in the National Geographic Daily News, "As Sea Ice Shrinks, Can Polar Bears Survive on Land?" She explores the options for the polar bears and how they will survive without ice for the summer.

“Big waves could be the new normal in the Arctic,” says Darek Bogucki, a physical oceanographer who studies and works in the Arctic but wasn't involved in this study.

A more complex cycle occurs from this loss of ice. Coastlines will be hit hard with rising sea waters. As the shorelines erode and the underwater phytoplankton and algae is reduced, the amount of carbon dioxide sent from the algae to the atmosphere will be an imbalance. This will trigger a return of carbon dioxide to warm the Arctic. The warming of the Arctic will release more greenhouse gas back into the atmosphere.

The Arctic has been losing ice since the late 70’s but the drastic change has been noticed since 2002. The 16 foot waves were picked up by scientists during a storm on September 12, 2012.

Satellites will continue to monitor the ice condition and rate of melt in order to determine what changes will occur in the future to both animal, fish and man in the Arctic. The Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis will continue each month to produce reports and analysis.

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