Arctic ice melt reached June levels in May of 2016.

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Every year the Arctic sees a melting season, where some of the sea ice melts due to increased temperatures and longer daylight hours. This is natural, but the ice has been melting faster in recent years that it used to. This year, Arctic ice melt reached levels in May that are normally seen in June.

That may not sound like much, but the earlier the ice starts melting, the longer it has to melt, which can impact the waters around the Arctic and further away as well.

Luckily, weather patterns changed in June, and that slowed down the melt, so new records won’t be set this year, but it’s a reminder that things might not always be that way. Climate change has had a significant impact on Arctic ice, and the potential for rising sea levels and subsequent flooding is one of the chief concerns scientists have about climate change.

For the moment, scientists can only observe the quickening Arctic ice melt, because at this point there is no way to fix the issue. Many researchers are looking for alternative fuel sources and ways to reduce carbon emissions, but in the meantime, scientists need to keep an eye on that ice. That’s why NASA is planning to launch a new satellite to make monitoring Arctic ice melt easier.

Ice thickness is an important factor in calculating melt, and while it can be measured on-site by submarines, that’s not terribly efficient. So far, however, it’s been hard to do from space during the melting season because the increased salinity of the water interferes with measuring devices.

ICESat-2, the planned satellite, will have a special laser altimeter that will make measuring the thickness of ice, at least above water, much easier to do. This will allow researchers to get more accurate data about the melt and give them a better idea of the pace of global climate change.