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Melting Sea Ice, North of Dickson , Taimyr, Russia (July 1991)
Sea ice is simply frozen ocean water. It forms, grows, and melts in the ocean. In contrast, icebergs, glaciers, ice sheets, and ice shelves all originate on land. Sea ice occurs in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Sea ice grows during the winter months and melts during the summer months, but some sea ice remains all year covering large areas of the Arctic Ocean.
Even though sea ice occurs primarily in the polar regions, it influences our global climate. Sea ice has a bright surface, so much of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected back into space. As a result, areas covered by sea ice don't absorb much solar energy, so temperatures in the polar regions remain relatively cool. If gradually warming temperatures melt sea ice over time, fewer bright surfaces are available to reflect sunlight back into space, more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further.