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Arctic Ice Snow Cover Disappearing August 15, 2014
Arctic sea ice
The thinner snow cover may allow the ice to melt earlier in the springtime.
The depth of the late-winter snowpack on sea ice in the Arctic has thinned considerably over the past 70 years, according to a new University of Washington-NASA study.

Writing for the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, lead author Melinda Webster says the conclusion was made after combining data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historical records gathered by Soviet scientists from the 1950s through the early 1990s.

Those measurements show the snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches in the western Arctic and from 13 inches to 6 inches in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, north and west of Alaska.

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

The authors believe the snowpack could be thinner because the surface of the Arctic Ocean is freezing later, after some of the year’s heaviest snowfalls in September and October.

That snow is now falling on a mainly open ocean.

Photo: NOAA