NASA Time-Lapse Of the Disappearing Arctic Polar Ice Cap

Weekly Graph of Arctic Sea Ice Age: 1984 – 2019

YouTube – Beauty of the Planet Earth (from NASA – Scientific Visualization Studio), Dec 5, 2018

Arctic sea ice has not only been shrinking in surface area in recent years, it’s becoming younger and thinner as well. In this animation, where the ice cover almost looks gelatinous as it pulses through the seasons, cryospheric scientist Dr. Walt Meier of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center describes how the sea ice has undergone fundamental changes during the era of satellite measurements.

Editor’s note: This visualization incorrectly identifies the oldest ice as being 5+ years old, when it would be more accurate to say 4+ years old. An updated version of this visualization can be downloaded in HD here:    [OR SEE BELOW…]

Newer version, without voice-over …

NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Youtube  -NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, by Cindy Starr & Horace Mitchell, Sept 30, 2019

This visualization shows the age of the Arctic sea ice between 1984 and 2019. Younger sea ice, or first-year ice, is shown in a dark shade of blue while the ice that is four years old or older is shown as white. A graph displayed in the upper left corner quantifies the area covered sea ice 4 or more years old in millions of square kilometers.

One significant change in the Arctic region in recent years has been the rapid decline in perennial sea ice. Perennial sea ice, also known as multi-year ice, is the portion of the sea ice that survives the summer melt season. Perennial ice may have a life-span of nine years or more and represents the thickest component of the sea ice; perennial ice can grow up to four meters thick. By contrast, first year ice that grows during a single winter is generally at most two meters thick.

This animation shows the seasonal variability of the ice, growing in the Arctic winter and melting in the summer. In addition, this also shows the changes from year to year. A graph in the upper left corner the quantifies the change over time by showing the area covered by sea ice that is 4 years old or older in millions of square kilometers. This graph also includes a memory bar – the vertical green bar that indicates the maximum value seen thus far in the animation for the given week being displayed. For example, when viewing the sea ice age for the first week in September, the memory bar will display the maximum value seen for the first week of September in all prior years from the beginning of the animation (1984). In addition, a violet bar indicates the weeks’s average area covered by sea ice greater than 4 years of age during the the 20-year time period from 1984 through 2003.

Note that data for the sea ice age is not available along the coastlines. The region where data is not available is shown in a dark lavender color.

Visualizers: Cindy Starr (lead), Horace Mitchell
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