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Arctic Lake Ice Shrinking With Rising Temperatures

Update Date: Feb 04, 2014 09:44 AM EST

A decline in the icy season of the Arctic lakes has been observed due to continued Arctic warming, a new research reports. 

Arctic lakes have been freezing up later and melting earlier that has resulted into a winter season which is about 24 days shorter than it was 1950. 

The research, sponsored by the European Space Agency ESA, has also revealed that climate change has significantly decreased the thickness of lake ice at the coldest point in the season. 

"We've found that the thickness of the ice has decreased tremendously in response to climate warming in the region," said lead author Cristina Surdu, a PhD student of Professor Claude Duguay in Waterloo's Department of Geography and Environmental Management in the press release. "When we saw the actual numbers we were shocked at how dramatic the change has been. It's basically more than a foot of ice by the end of winter."

Researchers have studied more than 400 lakes that are in the North Slope of Alaska. The research is also first of its kind that has documented the magnitude of lake-ice change in the region. 

"Prior to starting our analysis, we were expecting to find a decline in ice thickness and grounded ice based on our examination of temperature and precipitation records of the past five decades from the Barrow meteorological station," said Surdu. "At the end of the analysis, when looking at trend analysis results, we were stunned to observe such a dramatic ice decline during a period of only 20 years."

With the help of a satellite radar imagery from ESA, they determined that 62 percent of the lakes in the region froze to the bottom by 1992. Only 26 percent of the lakes were able to retain till bed or bottom of the lake by 2011. 

"The changes in ice and the shortened winter affect Northern communities that depend on ice roads to transport goods," added Surdu. "The dramatic changes in lake ice may also contribute to further warming of the entire region because open water on lakes contributes to warmer air temperatures, albeit to a lesser extent than open sea water."

The findings are documented in The Cryosphere

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