Arctic ice cover at record low: Study
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Last Updated: Friday, June 04, 2010, 17:37
  
Washington: Arctic sea ice is at its record low in the recent geologic history, a major international study has claimed.

The first comprehensive history of Arctic ice, carried out by a team of scientists from five countries, found that the recent retreat is the worst in thousands of years.

"The ice loss that we see today -- the ice loss that started in the early 20th Century and sped up during the last 30 years -- appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years," said Leonid Polyak, a research scientist at Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University.

Polyak is lead author of the research paper which will be published in the upcoming issue of Quarternary Science Reviews.

For decades, scientists have strived to collect sediment cores from the difficult-to-access Arctic Ocean floor, to discover what the Arctic was like in the past. Their most recent goal: to bring a long-term perspective to the ice loss we see today.

Now, the team led by Ohio State University has re-examined the data from past and ongoing studies -- nearly 300 in all -- and combined them to form a big-picture view of the pole's climate history stretching back millions of years, the university said.

Satellites can provide detailed measures of how much ice is covering the pole right now, but sediment cores are like fossils of the ocean's history, said Polyak.

"Sediment cores are essentially a record of sediments that settled at the sea floor, layer by layer, and they record the conditions of the ocean system during the time they settled.

"When we look carefully at various chemical and biological components of the sediment, and how the sediment is distributed -- then, with certain skills and luck, we can reconstruct the conditions at the time the sediment was deposited."

For example, scientists can search for a biochemical marker that is tied to certain species of algae that live only in ice. If that marker is present in the sediment, then that location was likely covered in ice at the time, he explained.

PTI


First Published: Friday, June 04, 2010, 17:37


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