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Albedo-Feedback In Arctic Ocean Found to be Major Cause of Sea Ice Retreat

Source: Science Daily/Hokkaido University - September 8, 2017 in Science/Tech

Albedo-Feedback In Arctic Ocean Found to be Major Cause of Sea Ice Retreat
Photo: Paul Gierszewski/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Quantitative analysis has evidenced the acceleration system of melting ice: dark water surfaces absorb more heat than white ice surfaces, thus melting ice and making more water surfaces in the Arctic Ocean.

Ice-covered sea areas in the Arctic Ocean during summer have nearly halved since the 1970s and 1980s, raising alarm that the ocean is shifting from a multiyear to a seasonal ice zone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forecasted summer ice cover in the polar ocean might disappear almost completely as early as 2050. Various factors have been cited as causes, including rising temperatures and changes in atmospheric circulation patterns.

Recently, however, ice-ocean “albedo feedback” has emerged as a key cause for sea ice melt. The feedback is generated by a large difference in albedo — a measure of light reflectivity — between open water and ice surfaces. As dark ocean surfaces absorb more light than white ice surfaces, solar heat input through the open water melts sea ice, increasing both open water areas and heat input and thus accelerating sea ice melt.

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