The sad tale of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps

As a young graduate student, Mark Serreze spent the summers of 1982 and 1983 studying two ice caps near St. Patrick Bay on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada. These ice caps have dramatically shrunk over the past fifty years and and are likely to soon disappear entirely. Their imminent demise has hit Serreze, now NSIDC…

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A sharper view of the ice edge

In the waters north of Alaska, ships can go for weeks without seeing another vessel. Fog frequently blankets the region in the spring and summer when the sea ice melts and recedes towards the North Pole. This season of melt has attracted more oil-seeking rigs and vessels over the last five years, taxing the U.S. Coast Guard ships that patrol these waters.

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Seeing sea ice, more or less

Observing sea ice from space is sometimes tricky. Water vapor in the atmosphere makes seawater look like ice. Coastlines covered with ice make nearby ocean look iced-over, a problem called land-ocean spillover.

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Evaluating Arctic sea ice predictions

Scientists expect Arctic summer sea ice to eventually disappear. Conservative estimates put the timeline by the end of the century, while more aggressive estimates suggest the Arctic Ocean may be free of summer sea ice within two or three decades.

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