The Arctic Ocean is seeing a rapid amount of ice loss this season, but NASA scientists aren’t too alarmed.
“A decade ago, this year’s sea ice extent would have set a new record low and by a fair amount,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Now, we’re kind of used to these low levels of sea ice — it’s the new normal.”
So now that scientists react to global warming with an almost charming amount of indifference (the ice caps are melting, this isn’t news), it’s about finding different ways to measure the amount of ice near our poles. When you’ve accepted something is a reality, the next thing you need to do is figure out how to observe it.
In order to measure ice thickness, most researchers use vessels or submarines, but scientists are working to figure out how to measure it from orbit. It seems like satellites can be used to measure anything on Earth, but the salt in the ocean water tends to interfere with radar.
According to a statement by NASA, a satellite called Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will use lasers and “a very precise detection instrument” by timing how long it takes for the laser to reach the Earth and bounce back to the satellite. It’s slated for launch in 2018. However, this only covers some of what needs to be measured. Scientists will have to calculate above-water height versus below, along with other factors.
We’re not going to hit a new record this year when it comes to low sea ice levels, which is probably a good thing. This March, NASA recorded a record low maximum extent for ice in the Arctic and it lost a lot more ice throughout May. It slowed down in June, but picked back up again in August, where the sun is at its peak.
This of course has been correlating to an average rise in temperatures across the Earth’s surface. Considering that last month was the hottest month since we began keeping records, I’m more surprised that the ice hasn’t melted even more (in the video above, you can see how the ice caps seem to shrivel up around mid-July). And every year, we just keep smashing those records. Honestly, if I was studying global temperatures, I’d probably be nonchalant about it too by now.