The Fast-Melting Arctic Ice Cap Could Have a Big Impact on Weather Patterns

NASA: "Over one million square miles of ice has melted since 1970."
4:08 | 08/22/14

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Transcript for The Fast-Melting Arctic Ice Cap Could Have a Big Impact on Weather Patterns
While it might be the dog days of summer here in the US but it's getting even warmer. Farther north. The Arctic ice caps are melting at the fastest rate in recent years. As at least one million square miles of ice has disappeared since 1970. I'm Mary Bruce in Washington. The melting of the ice caps is one of the more visible signs that the earth is warming and it's going to have a big impact on weather patterns. To explain more about the relationship between the ice caps and climate change. I'm joined now by NASA Christ your program manager Tom Wagner from the Goddard space center in Greenbelt Maryland. Well Tom thank you for joining us so one million square miles of ice has melted in the Arctic. Put that into perspective for us just how big is that. Look simple way to put it is this since the early 1980s which is the start of our satellite record we've lost two thirds of the ice in the Arctic. An area the size of Alaska and you can really think about it like this it's like taking a -- hat off the top of the plan. Now we've been lucky so far we haven't had an extremely hot summer here in the US but how are things looking in the Arctic this year. So in general -- the Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the rest the planet and that's probably what's driving the change. This year in the Arctic it was not a particularly warm year and that's kinda led to some good news and that this year the sea ice minimum when the -- when the sea ice reaches its. Smallest extent traditionally in September doesn't look like we're on track for a new record but it's still one of the Dennis moss expense of all time. And we -- -- -- NASA is launching a new mission to study the Arctic what can tell us about that. -- NASA's new mission is called arise and what it means we've realized is we don't know a lot about what's actually driving the ice loss in a way that we can improve our computer models. So arises gonna go out and particularly look at the links between the sea ice and the collapse. And clouds player varying role in some ways they reflect sunlight back into space but they can also hold heat near the Earth's surface. So we need to characterize those clouds and way that we can really improve our models and overall the connections to the -- system. So why it studied the Arctic specifically why not be an art. You know we do study the Antarctic also one of the things that's happening -- -- that big change that's going on in the Arctic. He's so significant and it's so radically altering the climate system up there that that's what we focus on particularly in discussions like this. But the Antarctic is profoundly important to in just a few weeks ago we released a study that talk about the dramatic thinning of the glaciers there. That are -- -- -- pretty significant sea level rise in the coming couple of centuries. And -- all of these changes what do these mean for us right here in the United States. Well hate you know the cutting edge of the research is how this polar change affect weather and climate. In the other parts of the globe in the case in North America there's been speculation say that hurricane sandy. Hit the East Coast of the US because of Arctic change in the position of the jetstream it could be that are mild summer means -- this year is related to it. But you know what again that's the edge of their search for people shouldn't lose sight of -- this as the planet is warming up it's not just changing its -- changed. And we need to start planning for the changes that are coming. Sea level rise which is thirty affecting all over the US. Warmer temperatures changes in precipitation such as flooding that's gonna get more likely in the northeast warming in -- dryer in the southwest. And -- steer people the documents like the national climate assessment which is a government report that's a great summary probably things. NASA crass -- program manager Tom Wagner from the Goddard space center in Greenbelt Maryland thank you so much. You can keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news -- and starring this story for exclusive updates on the go. For now I'm Mary -- in Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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