January 19, 2021

Strongest sea ice in the Arctic Ocean breaks up for the first time on record

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Some of the oldest, thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters just north of Greenland which are normally frozen throughout the hottest months of summer, according to a report from The South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

The unique weather phenomenon has never been recorded before until this year when it was recorded twice due to warm winds and climate change driven heatwave striking the northern hemisphere in July.

Thomas Laverge, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, called the issue “scary” on Twitter after tweeting an image of the blue water rising over the white ice along the coastline.

Scientists said it could prompt a revision to theories about how the Arctic will fare amid increased global warming.

The area north of Greenland was frozen for so long it was referred to as the “last ice area” since scientists believed this would be the final northern holdout as the planet warmed.

But after a drastic spike in February temperatures and again during the summer months, the ice area was left vulnerable to heavy winds which transported the ice further away from Greenland’s coast than ever previously recorded by satellites in the 1970s.

“Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the .

“Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.”

The ice area above Greenland is usually highly compacted due to the , one of two major weather patterns which shoves ice from Siberia across the Arctic to the coastline.

Laverge said: “I cannot tell how long this open water patch will remain open, but even if it closes in few days from now, the harm will be done: the thick old sea ice will have been pushed away from the coast, to an area where it will melt more easily.”

Keld Qvistgaard, the ice service coordinator in Denmark, said this instance was the first time a gap appeared between Greenland’s shore and the main ice pack, but said the most recent gap during August was a “pretty big one going all the way to west of Kap Morris Jesup. This is unusual.”

The Kap Morris Jesup weather station in Greenland is typically below -20 degrees Celsius in February, but this year for more than a week the region was above freezing and had warm winds, which sent the ice further away from the coast.

The area had another recorded high-temperature last week at 17 degrees Celsius, opening the crack again after the heat combined with southerly winds at 11 knots shifted the ice shelf.

“I think that solar heating of the water column will increase during this opening and this will delay freeze-up and ice formation,” said Rasmus Tage Tonboe, a sea ice expert at the Danish Meteorological Institute.

The Norwegian Ice Service said the readings for the Svalbard area this week were 40 percent below the average for this time of year, the first time since 1981.

In fact, at least 14 days out of the past month have experienced record low ice reports across the region, which signals ice elsewhere in the Arctic will also experience a decrease and is in line with predictions that say there will be no summer ice in the Arctic Ocean at some point between 2030 and 2050.

The sudden temperature bursts in the Arctic have increasingly alarmed scientists since this year’s heatwave and sunless winter raised concerns the polar vortex could be eroding.

That was also indicated by the Gulf Stream at its weakest level in 1,600 years due to the melting ice and ocean warming, which could make weather systems linger over specific areas longer.

The summer heatwave across the Arctic has also been blamed for an increase in forest fires in Siberia and across Scandinavia.

WN.com, Maureen Foody

For more on this story go to: https://article.wn.com/view/2018/08/22/Strongest_Sea_Ice_In_The_Arctic_Ocean_Breaks_Up_For_The_Firs/

IMAGE: Youtube

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