Satellite view of Arctic sea ice pulling away from the Greenland coast, 27 July 2018 - 13 August 2018. The animation from DTU Space shows combined Sentinel1 and AMSR2 images and CMEMS_EU Sentinel1 1-day ice drift vectors. Data: http://www.seaice.dk. Graphic: Leif Toudal / DTU Space

By Jonathan Watts
21 August 2018

(The Guardian) – The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.

But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s.

Arctic sea ice volume 1979-2018. Data: Polar Science Center. Graphic: The Guardian

“Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.” [more]

Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record

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