The findings, published in Nature Climate Change are good news for those who urgently need accurate forecasts of Arctic summer sea-ice extents, such as shipping and oil and gas extraction companies.
But they're not such good news for anyone interested in how climate change is affecting the Arctic.
Dr David Schröder and colleagues from the University of Reading report in their study that the ponds absorb the sun's rays. This warms the ice up, leading to more melting and ultimately, bigger ponds.
'We've known for some time that low reflectivity is likely to lead to a positive feedback effect. So, more ponds reduce albedo – or reflectivity; lower albedo causes more melting; and more melting causes more ponds. But we were surprised at how clear the link between this and late summer sea-ice extent is,' says Schröder.
The area of the Arctic covered by sea ice at the end of summer has dropped from around seven million km2 in the 1990s to less than five million in five of the past seven years.
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