Half of the Arctic’s Ocean Blanket of Sea Ice is gone

Half of the Arctic’s Ocean Blanket of Sea Ice is gone

The ice cover of Arctic is melting quick and fast and this can lead to a serious catastrophe around the globe.

Ever since 1958, the Arctic’s cover of thick ancient ice has been in a state of decline. With the thicker ice melting, it is being replaced by younger, thinner ice. A research published recently showed that the ice cover is only at one-thirds of its original thickness, these days. Despite its fast growth, the thin ice is prone to weather conditions such as storms. Around 70% of the ice cover consists of what is now ‘seasonal ice’. It basically means that the layer of ice temporarily forms and melts as the seasons change.

Scientists taking part in this research revealed that the Older ice has its size reduced by more than 2 million square kilometers. The vulnerability of young ice can be easily shown using the variation in ice thickness of the Arctic’s sea ice. Decades ago, the ice rarely melted into the Arctic ocean but nowadays, the ice melts and joins the ocean every passing year. Claire Parkinson, a Climate Change Senior Scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA said,

“This year’s minimum is relatively high compared to the record low extent we saw in 2012, but it is still low compared to what it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s.”

Multiyear ice is the ice that remains unaffected by weather for over two years. This type of ice is extremely resilient and has low amounts of salts in it, so low that the Arctic explorers used to melt it for drinking water. As global warming continues to affect our climate, the Arctic ice gets worse day by day. This puts the entire Arctic ecosystem at risk of instability. Melinda Webster, a Sea Ice Researcher at the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center expressed her concerns by saying,

“The combination of thin ice and southerly warm winds helped break up and melt the sea ice in this region. This opening matters for several reasons. For starters, the newly exposed water absorbs sunlight and warms the ocean, which affects how quickly sea ice will grow in the following autumn. It also affects the local ecosystem, such as seal and polar bear populations that rely on thicker, snow-covered sea ice for denning and hunting.”

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) predicted that the changing weather may reduce the Arctic’s ice even further. What makes things more worrying is that they believe that this will be a permanent change. Data shows the ice hit its minimum this year, breaking all previous records. Around this time of the year, the ice rapidly starts to reform as the temperature drops down, but something is amiss this year. The ice hasn’t started its usual expansion yet and increased temperatures are largely to blame for that.  The temperature is hovering around 18 degrees Fahrenheit which might seem low, but it is extremely high for the Arctic.

The blame largely falls on the high atmospheric pressure all the way to Alaska which pushed the heat towards the Arctic. The warmth in the ocean also seems to be affecting the ice.  Moreover, phytoplankton blooms, which consist of microscopic plan organisms, are slowly making their way towards the deep ice of the Arctic with the increase in temperature. Migration of these organisms can lead to a drastic change in the balance of ecosystem present in the Arctic. The newly migrated organisms will compete for light and nutrition with the existing life. This is more than enough to topple the relatively stable ecosystem present in this part of the world. Sophie Renaut, a PhD student at Laval University explained that in the following words:

“If the ice pack totally disappears in summer, there will be consequences for the phytoplankton spring bloom. We cannot exactly predict how it will evolve, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be drastic consequences for the entire ecosystem. The polar regions, the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, they’re really important because they play a critical role in regulating the global climate. If sea ice disappears completely in summer in the Arctic Ocean, which is what we expect in some decades, it’s going to have an impact on the ecosystem but also likely on the climate.”

The Arctic Ice cover plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the planet. The widespread ice cover reflects the sunlight and the deep and dark ocean absorbs it. The destruction of the ice cover will have serious consequences not only for the people living in the Arctic but for the entire planet.

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