Arctic sea ice melt water pools. Aerial photograph of melt water (blue) on Arctic sea ice in the Beaufort Sea. Sea ice across the Arctic Ocean is shrinking to below-average levels in 2016. It is thought that pools of melt water accumulating on the ice surface may be accelerating the overall sea ice retreat. This feature was surveyed as part of Operation IceBridge, a NASA project that monitors polar ice cover using aircraft instead of satellites. It was introduced in 2009 as a replacement for the malfunctioning ICESat satellite. Photographed on 14 July 2016.