(Satellite image provided by the Canadian Weather Office)
A series of large cracks that erupted into existence in February have now expanded to cover massive sections of Arctic sea ice.
Back in February, a series of large cracks shattered a section of sea ice just north of Canada and Alaska. Since that time, the cracks have been growing and multiplying. Now, nearly all of the Beaufort sea ice is mangled with giant cracks and openings exposing sections of water covered only by a thin film of ice.
You can clearly see a large section of these cracks and openings on the above satellite image just north of Alaska and northwest of Canada.
These cracks now appear to have expanded all the way across the Arctic Ocean to Russia and are fingering eastward toward the Laptev Sea. At this rate, much of the Arctic sea ice will be cracked, broken, and riddled with holes come the start of the melt season sometime within the next few weeks.
This particular event is rare, but not unique. Large cracking events have occurred during late winter and early spring over the past decade. But, according to reports from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), this particular event is the most extensive yet. Considering that NSIDC issued its report a few days ago and that ice has continued its break-up, the current extent of these cracks is even more considerable.
Such a large extent of fractured ice is not a good sign for the upcoming melt season. The ice between the cracks is very thin and, therefore, more likely to rapidly melt. The fractured ice itself has greater surface area and is more at the mercy of the elements — sunlight amplified by global warming and a continuously warming ocean.