Snow has thinned on Arctic sea ice

Aug 13, 2014
The probe, shaped like a ski pole, includes a basket that stays on top of the snow while the tip of the probe plunges down to the sea ice below. Credit: Chris Linder / Univ. of Washington

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the University of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

A new study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, combines data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historic data from ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the late 1950s through the early 1990s to track changes over decades.

Historically, Soviets on drifting sea ice used meter sticks and handwritten logs to record depth. Today, researchers on the ground use an automated probe similar to a ski pole to verify the accuracy of airborne measurements.

"When you stab it into the ground, the basket move up, and it records the distance between the magnet and the end of the probe," said first author Melinda Webster, a UW graduate student in oceanography. "You can take a lot of measurements very quickly. It's a pretty big difference from the Soviet field stations."

Webster verified the accuracy of airborne data taken during a March 15, 2012 NASA flight over the sea ice near Barrow, Alaska. The following day Webster followed the same track in minus 30-degree temperatures while stabbing through the snow every two to three steps.

UW graduate student Melinda Webster uses a probe to measure snow depth and verify NASA airborne data. She is walking on sea ice near Barrow, Alaska, in March 2012. Her backpack holds electronics that power the probe and record the data. Credit: Chris Linder / Univ. of Washington

The authors compared data from NASA airborne surveys, collected between 2009 and 2013, with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers buoys frozen into the sea ice, and earlier data from Soviet drifting ice stations in 1937 and from 1954 through 1991. Results showed that snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches (35 cm to 22 cm) in the western Arctic, and from 13 inches to 6 inches (33 cm to 14.5 cm) in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, west and north of Alaska.

That's a decline in the western Arctic of about a third, and snowpack in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas less than half as thick in spring in recent years compared to the average Soviet-era records for that time of year.

"Knowing exactly the error between the airborne and the ground measurements, we're able to say with confidence, Yes, the snow is decreasing in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas," said co-author Ignatius Rigor, an oceanographer at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory.

The authors speculate the reason for the thinner snow, especially in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, may be that the surface freeze-up is happening later in the fall so the year's heaviest snowfalls, in September and October, mostly fall into the open ocean.

What thinner snow will mean for the ice is not certain. Deeper snow actually shields ice from cold air, so a thinner blanket may allow the ice to grow thicker during the winter. On the other hand, thinner snow cover may allow the ice to melt earlier in the springtime.

Change in springtime Arctic snow depth compared to the average. The data come from Soviet drifting ice stations (1950-1987), US Ice Mass Balance buoys (1993-2013), and the NASA IceBridge airborne project (2009-2013). For measurements in the western Arctic only, the trend was a decline of 0.27 cm per year (about 1 inch less per decade) with 99 percent significance. Credit: M. Webster / Univ. of Washington

Thinner snow has other effects, Webster said, for animals that use the snow to make dens, and for low-light microscopic plants that grow underneath the sea ice and form the base of the Arctic food web.

The new results support a 15-year-old UW-led study in which Russian and American scientists first analyzed the historic Arctic Ocean snow measurements. That paper detected a slight decline in spring snow depth that the authors believed, even then, was due to a shorter ice-covered season.

"This confirms and extends the results of that earlier work, showing that we continue to see thinning snow on the Arctic ," said Rigor, who was also a co-author on the earlier paper.

The recent fieldwork was part of NASA's Operation IceBridge program, which is using aircraft to track changes while NASA prepares to launch a new ice-monitoring satellite in 2017. The team conducted research flights in spring 2012 as part of a larger program to monitor changes in the Arctic.

Explore further: IceBridge starts with sea ice surveys

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adam_russell_9615
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2014
Why is the graph labeled "Mean Anomaly of snow depth"? If its mean snow depth then it should say mean snow depth.

Anyway, the last few years our weather has been very mean.
:-0)
runrig
4.6 / 5 (14) Aug 13, 2014
Why is the graph labeled "Mean Anomaly of snow depth"? If its mean snow depth then it should say mean snow depth.

Anyway, the last few years our weather has been very mean.
:-0)


Because - it is the anomaly from normal... below the graph it says...
"Change in springtime Arctic snow depth compared to the average."
antigoracle
1.6 / 5 (19) Aug 13, 2014
Oh nose!!
How will the Polar bears have snowball fights?

adam, whenever you see the word anomaly used in climate "science", it means you must read the fine print. What they have done is cherry-picked the data for when there was high snowfall, 1945 to 1985, so that they can skew their average and thus claim a decline.
The following arctic temperature data would tell you why they would NOT show data prior to 1945. http://www.greenf...sent.htm
Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (15) Aug 13, 2014
@anti

What do you think about this article from the same site?

http://www.greenf...acts.htm
Vietvet
4.4 / 5 (14) Aug 13, 2014
@anti

For your enlightenment

.http://www.thewea...nts/222/
supamark23
4.7 / 5 (14) Aug 13, 2014
Oh nose!!
How will the Polar bears have snowball fights?

adam, whenever you see the word anomaly used in climate "science", it means you must read the fine print. What they have done is cherry-picked the data for when there was high snowfall, 1945 to 1985, so that they can skew their average and thus claim a decline.
The following arctic temperature data would tell you why they would NOT show data prior to 1945. http://www.greenf...sent.htm


Poor antig, doesn't understand the why of things and sees conspiracies everywhere (they make a pill to fix that btw) - they didn't do measurements earlier because until the Cold War started nobody really cared (the arctic was a major "battleground" for submariners during the Cold War fyi).
strangedays
4.7 / 5 (12) Aug 13, 2014
vietvet
What do you think about this article from the same site?


You know about those socialist liberals in Canada - right vietvet? I think they actually started the conspiracy. Or was that Joseph Stalin? What ever - they are just stealing all the research money - and fabricating the data don't you know?
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (16) Aug 14, 2014
Ah the maxim of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery-
If you can't impress them with intelligence, baffle them with your bullshit.
Maggnus
4.7 / 5 (13) Aug 14, 2014
I don't comment much any more, given that the deniers that infest this site are so out of touch as to be mere caracachures of the old denialists, but I have to say that antigoricle is one truly messed up denialist buffoon. I'm sure glad you can't reproduce againstseeing.
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (15) Aug 14, 2014
Oh, if it ain't magganus, so true to his cult's maxim. I guess it was his turn to abuse that lone neuron he shares with the rest of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery.
Vietvet
4.3 / 5 (12) Aug 14, 2014
Oh, if it ain't magganus, so true to his cult's maxim. I guess it was his turn to abuse that lone neuron he shares with the rest of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery.


What you lack in originality you make up for it in stupidity.
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (14) Aug 14, 2014
Hey viet, what you have in stupidity leaves no room for anything else.
Vietvet
4.4 / 5 (13) Aug 14, 2014
Hey viet, what you have in stupidity leaves no room for anything else.


You proved my point.
runrig
4.7 / 5 (12) Aug 14, 2014
Ah the maxim of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery-
If you can't impress them with intelligence, baffle them with your bullshit.


As you're a science free denier - you don't have the requisite where-with-all to know the difference my fiend.
Whereas to we who do know the science ... your bullshit exudes it's aroma from the laptop screen.
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (15) Aug 14, 2014
Yep, you in the AGW Cult's peanut gallery know the "science" just like your False Profit Al, trying to deceive by showing CO2 leading temperature. Well, he only succeeded in fooling you.
thermodynamics
4.7 / 5 (12) Aug 14, 2014
Yep, you in the AGW Cult's peanut gallery know the "science" just like your False Profit Al, trying to deceive by showing CO2 leading temperature. Well, he only succeeded in fooling you.


Anti continues to show his blindness for science and his hate for Al Gore (who is not a scientist and is not who we get our science from). Anti reminds me of the movie Fatal Attraction where he is so caught up in his love/hate for Al Gore that he can't even think about the science. It seems to me that Anti and Al should go to couples counseling if Anti wants to have a real life. But then again, Anti might be fixated on impressing Al through his wit on this forum. If so, Anti has a long way to go.
rockwolf1000
4.7 / 5 (12) Aug 14, 2014
Yep, you in the AGW Cult's peanut gallery know the "science" just like your False Profit Al, trying to deceive by showing CO2 leading temperature. Well, he only succeeded in fooling you.


Thanks for coming out. Your repetitious 20 word essays do a marvelous job of demonstrating your ignorance and stupidity.

If you can't impress them with intelligence, baffle them with your bullshit.


Isn't that the battle hymn of your alma mater?
supamark23
4.7 / 5 (12) Aug 14, 2014
Yep, you in the AGW Cult's peanut gallery know the "science" just like your False Profit Al, trying to deceive by showing CO2 leading temperature. Well, he only succeeded in fooling you.


Nobody cares what a politician said, Al Gore isn't a scientist and what he says/thinks about AGW is 100% meaningless... if you weren't such a moron you'd understand that. But go ahead and keep fellating those Kochs, we know who your daddy is.
mansie
4 / 5 (4) Aug 14, 2014
What does AGW stand for?
thermodynamics
4.7 / 5 (7) Aug 14, 2014
What does AGW stand for?


"Anthropogenic Global Warming" Meaning that humans are responsible.
rp142
5 / 5 (7) Aug 14, 2014
Trolls get off on attention. Trolls live pathetic lives and add no value to their community. Maybe a few people should consider not feeding the troll...
supamark23
4.2 / 5 (10) Aug 14, 2014
Trolls get off on attention. Trolls live pathetic lives and add no value to their community. Maybe a few people should consider not feeding the troll...


But then I wouldn't have gotten to make my fellating Kochs joke... :(
runrig
4.6 / 5 (9) Aug 15, 2014
Trolls get off on attention. Trolls live pathetic lives and add no value to their community. Maybe a few people should consider not feeding the troll...

It's a point of view I sympathise with, and on other subjects that is the way to go .... however I abhor ignorance and selfishness .... and lies.
This is a subject I know about (ex professional Meteorologist) - So, I do not let them get the last word.
antigoracle
1.4 / 5 (10) Aug 15, 2014
But then I wouldn't have gotten to make my fellating Kochs joke... :(
--supaturd
Well, that would be the best use, so far, of that lone neuron you share with the rest of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery.
rp142
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 15, 2014
Trolls get off on attention. Trolls live pathetic lives and add no value to their community. Maybe a few people should consider not feeding the troll...

It's a point of view I sympathise with, and on other subjects that is the way to go .... however I abhor ignorance and selfishness .... and lies.
This is a subject I know about (ex professional Meteorologist) - So, I do not let them get the last word.


Feeding the trolls just keeps them around, leaving a lot of pointless comments for the rest of us to see. Those feeding trolls can quickly become part of the problem.

This is site for science news and discussion. The uneducated or delusional trolls have no credibility here, as can be shown from the ratings of their comments. They are not going to convince anyone that their nonsense is correct. Addressing the issues raised in the article, rather than the troll reduces the number of spam comment to give one star.
antigoracle
1.4 / 5 (11) Aug 15, 2014
Nah, the trolls feed off the humor that the AGW Cult's Chicken Littles provide when they pretend to know science.
Captain Stumpy
4.6 / 5 (9) Aug 16, 2014
Feeding the trolls just keeps them around, leaving a lot of pointless comments for the rest of us to see. Those feeding trolls can quickly become part of the problem
@rp142
whereas your point is extremely valid and cogent, there are also many people here who come to learn, and where would they be with nothing but troll scat among the comments?

Some are older and not able to utilize the internet very well... some who claim education cannot even use the internet well (see some nuclear engineers who post on various topics)

Runrig, Maggnus, Thermo, Strange et al may post to clarify a lot, but it is so that people learning can see the reality and follow the links to proof.

You ARE correct, though... the uneducated and delusional trolls post blogs or opinion (or simply defile the comment section like above)
whereas the learned post empirical data, proof, links to studies... etc...

the site is NOT moderated well
antigoracle
1.4 / 5 (11) Aug 16, 2014
we know who your daddy is
-- supaturd
Hey supaturd, did mummy tell you yours was a fast acting laxative.
runrig
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2014
Trolls get off on attention. Trolls live pathetic lives and add no value to their community. Maybe a few people should consider not feeding the troll...

It's a point of view I sympathise with, and on other subjects that is the way to go .... however I abhor ignorance and selfishness .... and lies.
This is a subject I know about (ex professional Meteorologist) - So, I do not let them get the last word.


Feeding the trolls just keeps them around, leaving a lot of pointless comments for the rest of us to see. Those feeding trolls can quickly become part of the problem.

This is site for science news and discussion. The uneducated or delusional trolls have no credibility here, as can be shown from the ratings of their comments. They are not going to convince anyone that their nonsense is correct. Addressing the issues raised in the article, rather than the troll reduces the number of spam comment to give one star.

They would still post even if not denied.
runrig
4 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2014
Nah, the trolls feed off the humor that the AGW Cult's Chicken Littles provide when they pretend to know science.

Another land of the Fairies comment from Anti.
So the experts pretend to know the science ....
And the ignorant know it because they are informed by opinion pieces and denialist Blogs.

Yep, I'd say that point of view belongs somewhere well beyond where the Fairies live.
FFS
antigoracle
1.4 / 5 (10) Aug 16, 2014
Of course the AGW Cult's Chicken Littles would be blind to the fact that 1943 was hotter than anytime the Cult claims man made CO2 was causing global warming.
http://www.greenf...sent.htm
Vietvet
4 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2014
Of course the AGW Cult's Chicken Littles would be blind to the fact that 1943 was hotter than anytime the Cult claims man made CO2 was causing global warming.
http://www.greenf...sent.htm[/q

You just demonstrated your inability to read a graph.
TechnoCore
4.6 / 5 (10) Aug 16, 2014
@runrig, @Captain Stumpy, @rp142

I wish this site had a community moderation system like slashdot.org. There randomly selected people get points to mod posts. Also meta moderation where you get rated how fair you mod other posts, which in turn controls how often you get mod points. Posts like those of antigoracle would be modded down to troll in no time, and not seen by anyone.
He could post all day long, and it would not matter.
robertgr
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 16, 2014
Al Gore told me there is NO ice at all in the arctic, so this story must be fiction...
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2014
@runrig, @Captain Stumpy, @rp142

I wish this site had a community moderation system like slashdot.org. There randomly selected people get points to mod posts. Also meta moderation where you get rated how fair you mod other posts, which in turn controls how often you get mod points. Posts like those of antigoracle would be modded down to troll in no time, and not seen by anyone.
He could post all day long, and it would not matter.
@TechnoCore
Hey, not a bad idea... why not suggest it in the CONTACT link below?
Use the feedback/ideas part... maybe you can get them to make some changes?

I've suggested that they actually take some of the authorities and professionals like Q-Star, Runrig Maggnus Thermodynamics etc and make them MODS... no answer

hit them up... I will forward this as well
maybe they will make the change?
KB_Thailand
5 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2014
@TechnoCore I agree that this is definitely needed. I really get tired of reading the trolls everywhere anything about climate science is posted.

This is my first post here, but I read a lot and leave the learned discussions to those with more insight. I wish the denier trolls would do the same.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2014
This is my first post here, but I read a lot and leave the learned discussions to those with more insight
@KB_Thailand
First off, WELCOME

you know... you should consider posting more, especially correcting things you know to be untrue, or offering your perspective.
It may help someone learn how to associate A with B and make a connection that has eluded them...
it ALSO may help YOU

if you are interested, there are FREE courses that you can also take when you have time that will help a LOT too... you can start here: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

taking courses AND talking about your knowledge helps a LOT... and, like I said... it can help someone else learn as well
There are plenty of people here that are still learning (like myself)
ENJOY

Peace
KB_Thailand
5 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2014
Thanks Captain, I appreciate the welcome.

My comment is not to say I have no take on the matter, just that when it comes to the science, I leave that to those who have a better grounding in it than I do. I am a retired software engineer, and prefer reading about physics and chemistry, but do understand enough basic logic to know that something is going on with the climate, and we darn sure need to find out what it is if we wish to live up to our Homo Sapiens naming. The total lack of logic, critical thinking skills or knowledge of the average denier post is something to behold. Whether it is Anthropogenic or natural variability is beside the point. Only someone who consciously ignores data believes nothing is happening. Throwing temper tantrums and covering your eyes and ears is fine when you are 5 and someone tells you there is no Santa, but really is not very helpful when you wish to speak to adults. Some of us wish to know what is going on.

Best Regards
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2014
Ah the maxim of the AGW Cult's peanut gallery-
If you can't impress them with intelligence, baffle them with your bullshit.


That's quite the "nugget" of what passes for wisdom in your failing, bedimmed mind.

Whwere did you find it? In your diaper? How many times have I told you to keep your hands out of there?

No matter --here comes Nurse to fit you with a clean one.

thermodynamics
5 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2014
Thanks Captain, I appreciate the welcome.

My comment is not to say I have no take on the matter, just that when it comes to the science, I leave that to those who have a better grounding in it than I do. I am a retired software engineer, and prefer reading about physics and chemistry, but do understand enough basic logic to know that something is going on with the climate, and we darn sure need to find out what it is if we wish to live up to our Homo Sapiens naming...

...Some of us wish to know what is going on.

Best Regards


KB: Welcome aboard. As Captain Stumpy mentioned, those of us who comment also learn as we respond in these comments sections (those of us who do research to be sure our answers are accurate). We like questions and comments from honest learners (not the deniers). So, please ask any questions that come up and we might all learn something.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (6) Aug 18, 2014
What does AGW stand for?

Al Gore's World.
supamark23
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 18, 2014
What does AGW stand for?

Al Gore's World.


I see you're quite gay for Al Gore...
antigoracle
1 / 5 (7) Aug 18, 2014
Don't be jealous supaturd, someday you'll find a desperate priest to molest a retard like you.

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