A new study shows that the Arctic sea ice may be declining faster than what scientists initially predicted. Scientists say salty snow on the surface of the ice causes satellite to misinterpret the thickness of the ice.

Arctic Ocean Could Become Ice-Free Sooner Than Predicted

A new report from the University of Calgary's Cryosphere Climate Research Group published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the Arctic sea ice may be declining 25 percent faster than what was initially predicted.

Scientists say the miscalculation is due to a misinterpretation from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite that was caused by salty snow cover on the surface of the ice.

"Microwave measurements" from satellites cannot penetrate the salty snow properly, so the "readings overestimate the thickness of the ice," said Vishnu Nandan, the lead author of the study.

This means that the Arctic Ocean could become ice-free sooner than expected. Scientists predicted that the sea ice will begin to vanish completely between the years 2040 and 2050, according to Nandan. Previously, it has been estimated that the thickness of the ice in the Arctic Ocean has been dropping 17 percent every 10 years; however, the latest research suggests the drop could be "slightly faster."

The Results Of The Decline: What Could Happen?

As a result, the frequency and immensity of storms would increase and bring about a change in global weather patterns, according to John Yackel, a geography professor at University of Calgary. The effect would also have a significant impact on animals in the Arctic Ocean, making it very difficult for them to hunt and search for food supplies in order to survive.

What Researchers Plan To Do?

The University of Calgary researchers along with other researchers from France and Germany have devised a plan that will consider "snow salinity" in satellite estimates. The plan will also integrate a decade of snow data with "microwave theory."

"Our results suggest that snow salinity should be considered in all future estimates on the Arctic seasonal ice freeboard made from satellites." said Yackel.

European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 Satellite

CryoSat-2 is an environmental research satellite that was launched atop a Dnepr rocket back in April 2010. Its mission is to study the Earth's polar ice caps and provide scientists with measurements and data that tracks the changes in the thickness of the ice. It is a successor of the CryoSat-1 that was part of the European Space Agency's Living Planet programme.

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