Jennifer Kay: ‘Clear skies over Arctic cause more melting’

It’s “a pretty important story to know about,” said atmospheric scientist Jennifer Kay – that’s the story of how natural changes in weather affects the rate of sea ice melting. Kay’s research shows that more Arctic sea ice melts when skies are clear and sunny. Why is it an important story? Because, said Kay, sea ice is “one of the most visible manifestations of climate change.”

Clearer skies over the Arctic are causing more sea ice to melt. That’s according to research led by Jennifer Kay, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Jennifer Kay: I think that’s a pretty important story to know about, that there’s change happening and the natural variability in something like weather can accentuate that change and make a very dramatic effect, this huge loss of ice.

The year 2007 saw a record summer melt of ice floating in the Arctic sea, which shrank about 40 percent below the 20-year average. Kay and colleagues found that cloud cover also shrank by 16 percent, letting more of the summer sun in.

Jennifer Kay: When you couple together these unusual weather patterns, but not unprecedented weather patterns, and a very vulnerable ice surface, you end up with a very dramatic loss of sea ice, and that’s what we saw this past summer.

EarthSky asked Kay why it’s important to study sea ice.

Jennifer Kay: It can play a really important role in modifying the heat and where the heat is going in the Arctic. I think there’s also a lot of focus on sea ice because it’s one of the most visible manifestations of climate change.

Our thanks today to NASA, in celebration of the International Polar Year.

Our thanks to:
Jennifer Kay
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Colorado State University

Jorge Salazar