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        Albedo Decrease Linked to Vanishing Arctic Sea Ice

        This visualization from NASA shows the correlation between a decline in Arctic sea ice and the resulting decrease in planetary albedo. Over the past few decades, the Arctic region has warmed, causing the summer sea ice extent to decline by 40 percent. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography calculated this shift in planetary albedo associated with changes in sea ice cover using measurements by NASA’s Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) and Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) instruments aboard satellites. This data shows the strong correlation between a decrease in albedo and increased absorption of solar radiation by the Arctic Ocean, resulting from the surface darkening as reflective sea ice melts.

        To view the Background Essay, Teaching Tips, and Student Handouts for this visualization, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.


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