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Ask a Scientist

These articles provide answers to frequently asked questions related to Earth's frozen realms. Questions range from general background information and detailed science processes to the data gathered and archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and its data management programs including NOAA@NSIDC, the NASA NSIDC Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC), and the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA). If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact NSIDC User Services.


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Ice melange after Wilkins breakup, 2008
The Wilkins Ice Shelf is one of many thick slabs of ice that cling to Antarctica’s coast. Most of the continent’s ice sheet ends in one of these ice extensions that floats on the surrounding ocean water. Like the Larsen Ice Shelf, the Wilkins Ice
Wilkins Ice Shelf
Ice shelves are thick slabs of ice that cling to cold-region coastlines. Although some ice shelves form through the accumulation of sea ice, the world’s largest ice shelves are fed by glaciers. When a glacier reaches the coast, the ice floats on near
Larsen B Ice Shelf, March 7, 2002
An ice shelf is a slab of ice, often hundreds of meters thick, that is attached to a coastline and extends over the adjacent ocean waters. Massive ice shelves hug the perimeter of Antarctica. One of them, the Larsen Ice Shelf, underwent a series of
The Arctic ice cover plays an important role in maintaining Earth’s temperature—the shiny white ice reflects light and heat that the ocean would otherwise absorb, keeping the Northern Hemisphere cool. The continued loss of Arctic sea ice will include
We’ve all heard it: Arctic sea ice is melting. Sea ice is thinner year to year and there is less of it. In 2007, scientists observed a nearly 50 percent loss of summer ice as compared to 1980. With such a dramatic shift, what else is taking place in