"ON BOARD COAST GUARD FLIGHT ABOVE BEAUFORT SEA, Oct 2 - Out in the Arctic Ocean, about 200 miles (322 km ) north of the nearest human settlement, the future of the world's climate is written in the patterns of ice patches on the water's surface.
Old, 'multiyear' ice -- the glue that holds the polar ice cap together and forms the Arctic's defense against encroaching warming -- is slowly disintegrating, a process that is plain to see from the air.
Thick ice floes used to be kilometers (miles) wide just over a decade ago, said Jim Overland, a sea-ice expert with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has been surveying the site since the 1990s.
Now the narrow floes -- with bright-white tops and a blue underwater glow -- are just meters (yards) wide, observed Overland as he studied the patterns from the window of a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft.
The dense, high-quality ice is not coming back, Overland said."