Thick sea ice in the coldest areas of the Arctic is breaking apart for the first time on record
- Waters off north coast of Greenland thought to be last hit by climate change
- But, scientists have found that the old, thick ice in this area has broken apart
- Sea ice here broke apart twice this year, which has never been recorded before
A patch of frozen water off the north coast of Greenland once known as ‘the last ice area’ has begun to break apart for the first time on record.
This area of the Arctic is home to the oldest and thickest ice in the region, which has until now withstood the effects of climate change.
While the break-up of sea ice in this part of the Arctic has never been documented in the past, experts say it’s happened twice this year alone as a result of warm winds and hotter temperatures, according to The Guardian.
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A patch of frozen water off the north coast of Greenland once known as ‘the last ice area’ has begun to break apart for the first time. File photo
The waters off the north coast of Greenland are situated in some of the coldest parts of the Arctic, and it’s long been assumed that they would be among the last to experience the melting effects seen in other areas.
After a period of unusual warmth this past February and at the beginning of August, however, it now appears that may not be the case, The Guardian reports.
The drifting ice has now opened up the biggest gap from the coast ever recorded.
‘Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,’ Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute told The Guardian.
On social media, other scientists have said the recent phenomenon is ‘scary,’ with one animation shared by researcher Leif Toudal showing how the ice has moved.
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Arctic sea ice extent now sits at around 5.7 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles), according to NSIDC. The sea ice is shown above, with the yellow line representing the median ice edge from 1981-2010
It’s just the latest in a worrying trend as Arctic sea ice continues to dwindle as a result of the changing climate.
Sea ice extent declined rapidly at the beginning of the summer, and while it isn’t expected to set a new record minimum this coming September, experts estimate it will still be among the lowest in 40 years of keeping track.
‘Through the first two weeks of August, ice extent declined at approximately 65,000 square kilometers (25,100 square miles) per day, slightly faster than the 1981 to 2010 average of 57,000 square kilometers (22,000 square miles) per day,’ according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center.
The pace has finally begun to slow after weeks of above-average activity.
Sea ice extent declined rapidly at the beginning of the summer, and while it isn’t expected to set a new record minimum this coming September, experts estimate it will still be among the lowest in 40 years of keeping track. The 2018 levels are shown as the blue line above
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF LOWER SEA ICE LEVELS?
The amount of Arctic sea ice peaks around March as winter comes to a close.
NASA recently announced that the maximum amount of sea ice this year was low, following three other record-low measurements taken in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
This can lead to a number of negative effects that impact climate, weather patterns, plant and animal life and indigenous human communities.
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is declining, and this has dangerous consequences, NASA says
Additionally, the disappearing ice can alter shipping routes and affect coastal erosion and ocean circulation.
NASA researcher Claire Parkinson said: ‘The Arctic sea ice cover continues to be in a decreasing trend and this is connected to the ongoing warming of the Arctic.
‘It’s a two-way street: the warming means less ice is going to form and more ice is going to melt, but, also, because there’s less ice, less of the sun’s incident solar radiation is reflected off, and this contributes to the warming.’
Arctic sea ice extent sits at 5.7 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) as of August 15, according to NSIDC.
This puts it lower than the average, but still above the record minimum, the experts explain.
The current extent is ‘1.58 million square kilometers (610,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average, but 868,000 square kilometers (335,000 square miles) above the record low at this time of year recorded in 2012,’ according to NSIDC.
The scientists say the 2018 minimum extent will likely sit between the fourth and ninth lowest on record.
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