It's Not Just The Arctic Ice That's Thinning -- It's The Snow Too

It's no secret that the ice in the arctic is getting thinner, both in terms of sheer volume and in terms of land mass occupied. But now, scientists say that we should also be concerned about the snow on top of that ice.

A new study from JPL and the University of Washington Seattle looked at how much snow topped our arctic ice and came to the conclusion that we are seeing accumulations of between one-third to half as much as 50 years ago.

The loss in the ice and the snow are, of course, not unrelated. With areas that were once covered in ice now melted to water, snow accumulations are instead falling into that water. At the same time, the ice itself is also suffering from the lack of protection that a thick covering of snow used to provide (an action JPL co-author Son Nghiem described as "like a shield"). Taken together they make a troubling feedback loop, where less ice leads to less snow which leads to less ice, and so on and on.

You can read the full study over at the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Image: Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard