"If the perennial ice cover, which consists mainly of thick multi-year ice floes, disappears, the entire Arctic Ocean climate and ecology would become very different," said Josefino Comiso, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., who authored the study.
used satellite data to track trends in minimum Arctic sea ice cover and temperature over the Arctic from 1978 to 2000.
Since sea ice does not change uniformly in terms of time or space, Comiso
sectioned off portions of the Arctic data and carefully analyzed these sections to determine when ice had reached the minimum for that area each year.
Comparing the differences between Arctic sea ice data from 1979 to 1989 and data from 1990 to 2000, Comiso
found the biggest melting occurred in the western area (Beaufort and Chukchi Seas) while considerable losses were also apparent in the eastern region (Siberian, Laptev and Kara Seas).
While the latest data came too late to be included in the paper, Comiso
recently analyzed the ice cover data up to the present and discovered that this year's perennial ice cover is the least extensive observed during the satellite era.