(Image source: APL)
Small leads (cracks) in the sea ice became visible at the North Pole Observatory’s Camera 1 today.
This camera is part of a North Pole environmental observatory supported by a National Science Foundation Grant and managed by the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington. Camera 1 is one of two cameras placed on ice at or near the North Pole to visually observe conditions there.
The cracks began to appear at around 20:15 this evening when two areas of ice — one to the left of the camera and one to the right — began to break up.
Ice near the North Pole is generally very stable. But melt over the past few years has begun to threaten melt in this region. Over the past two weeks, a persistent storm has churned up the ocean, breaking large sections of fragile ice. Unless conditions remain colder than average for much of the summer this year, large sections of ice, previously protected from melt, are at risk of loss during this summer.
Some scientists, noting rapid trends in sea ice area and volume loss, have recently warned that Arctic sea ice could completely melt by end of summer as early as 2015 and possibly before 2020. An indication that this end stage melt was beginning would be cracking and break-up of ice in the area of the North Pole and in other protected regions close to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
Summer 2013 is not expected to see all or most sea ice lost by end of summer. However, an extraordinarily strong melt year with losses akin to 2007 or 2010 (volume) would be enough to render the Arctic mostly ice free.