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On Thin Ice

Sea ice is more than just a frozen expanse. It’s a multifaceted structure that plays a pivotal role in our planet’s climate, wildlife ecosystems, and oceanic currents. 

However, the Arctic region, a significant component of the Earth’s stock of frozen water (known as the cryosphere), has lost an ice area equivalent to two-thirds the size of the contiguous United States due to planetary warming, says Ken Golden, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the U. The journal Nature Reviews Physics recently published a viewpoint article co-written by Golden about how the behavior of sea ice is a central problem in the physics of Earth’s climate system. 

In just recent decades, the extent of Arctic sea ice has shrunk by about half. “Not over the past million years, not over a thousand years, but over the past 30 or 40 years,” Golden said in his opening remarks at the recent Climate Summit hosted by the U College of Science’s Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy.

Here, during a 2007 expedition, Golden drills into Antarctic sea ice, whose extent has also recently reached record lows.

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