Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

This week's EarthWord is what Vanilla Ice might've called a follow-up to his most famous song...

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

Image shows a gray stretch of nilas on dark gray ocean water.
Image shows a gray stretch of nilas on dark gray ocean water. Credit: Jessica Fitzpatrick, USGS.

The EarthWord: Young Ice


  • Bad news for fans of the hip hop artist—that’s not what we’re talking about today. In the science world, young ice refers to one stage of ice development for sea ice. When ice forms on the sea, it undergoes a process of evolution throughout the year. It starts out, appropriately enough, as “new ice.”

  • Then, as it develops further, thickening and hardening, it becomes known as “nilas.” The final stage of sea ice during its first year is “young ice.” All three stages—New Ice, Nilas, and Young Ice, are grouped together and called “First Year Ice.”

  • If the ice survives past its first year, it’s known as “Old Ice” or “Multiyear Ice.”

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Sea ice and its behavior is an important part of sea level rise research. As the climate changes, survival of sea ice can significantly affect ocean temperatures and levels. In addition, many marine creatures rely on sea ice for mating, hunting, and resting.

  • Being able to categorize the ice that scientists find is an important part of keeping track of the effects of climate change on our oceans.


  • USGS researches sea level rise, sea ice quantity and quality, and the effects of climate change on the oceans through its Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area.

Next EarthWord: This EarthWord is your best friend in Scrabble or Words With Friends

Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.