Dramatic Drop in Arctic Ice Levels
New research published in the journal Nature has found dramatic changes in the composition of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean since 2007 caused by climate change. Norwegian Polar Institute researchers have monitored sea ice thickness in the Fraim Strait (a sea channel connecting the Arctic Ocean and the Nordic Seas that runs between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago) for the past three decades. In 2007, a “regime shift” was noted in Arctic sea ice composition, from thicker and deformed to thinner and more uniform ice cover.
Researchers found that the amount of thick and deformed ice had dropped by half, and they believe the thinning may be irreversible. They link the ice thinning to a rise in Arctic surface temperatures, more energy absorption because of a reduction in reflected light off the sea ice and warmer ocean water. Younger, thinner ice could result in a loss of habitat for Arctic creatures, as thicker, ridged sea ice can be a haven to hide from predators. There are also consequences for humans. Thinner, more level ice is less challenging for ship navigation and, along with less ice and shorter ice seasons, may permit an increase in Arctic maritime traffic.