Arctic Losing Thickest Sea Ice in Midst of Winter


What remains of the thickest and most stable Arctic sea ice is now huddled against the northern coasts of Greenland and the Arctic Archipelago. But in today’s unstable Arctic environment, even this, relatively thick, multi-year ice is in jeopardy.

The above image, a composite graphic representation of satellite images that measures sea ice thickness, shows thick ice flushing out through the Fram Strait throughout the last 12 months, even in the midst of winter.

The Fram Strait includes the icy waters just east of Greenland, north of Iceland and west of Svalbard. Over the past 10 years, loss of thick sea ice through the Fram Strait has been a ‘normal’ event. This steady flushing of the Arctic ice cap has led to increased fragility, more mobile and rapidly thinning ice. 2012-13 stands out due to an unprecedented and extraordinarily rapid loss of ice even in the midst of winter — a time when the possibilities for sea ice recovery are strongest.

Particularly shocking was the flushing of thick sea ice off its anchor on the north Greenland coastline, out the Fram Strait, and into the North Atlantic during the sea ice ‘recovery’ month of December. You can watch this expulsion in the last few frames of the sequence above.

Early indicators though they are, these instances are more evidence that the Arctic sea ice is very, very fragile and is becoming increasingly vulnerable to rapid, catastrophic collapse.


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