The Transpolar Drift is faltering – and sea ice is now melting before it can leave the nursery

The Transpolar Drift is faltering – and sea ice is now melting before it can leave the nursery

SOURCE: AWI DATE: April 2, 2019 SNIP: The shallow Russian shelf or marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean are broadly considered to be the ‘nursery’ of Arctic sea ice: in winter, the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea constantly produce new sea ice. This is due to extremely low air temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius, and a strong offshore wind that drives the young ice out to the open sea. In the course of the winter, the sea ice is eventually caught up in the Transpolar Drift, one of the two main currents in the Arctic Ocean. In two to three years’ time, it transports the ice floes from the Siberian part of the Arctic Ocean, across the Central Arctic, and into the Fram Strait, where it finally melts. Two decades ago, roughly half the ice from Russia’s shelf seas made this transarctic journey. Today only 20 percent does; the other 80 percent of the young ice melts before it can become a year old and reach the Central Arctic. The ice now leaving the Arctic through the Fram Strait is, on average, 30 percent thinner than it was 15 years ago. The reasons: on the one hand, rising winter temperatures in the Arctic and a melting season that now begins much earlier; on the other, this ice is no longer formed in the shelf seas, but much farther north. As a result, it has far less time to drift through the Arctic and grow into thicker pack...
Vanishing ice in the Bering Sea drops to lowest level since 1850

Vanishing ice in the Bering Sea drops to lowest level since 1850

SOURCE: Axios DATE: March 7, 2019 SNIP: For the second straight year, the Bering Sea — a turbulent and bountiful stretch of the northern Pacific Ocean — is virtually ice free at a time of year when it should be gaining ice. The ice pack’s ebb and flow each year has far-reaching consequences for the broader Bering Sea ecosystem, including determining the reach and abundance of prized fish species such as Alaska pollock and Pacific cod. In a new study published in Earth’s Future on Thursday, scientists warn that Arctic climate change is already reverberating far outside the region. By the end of February, Bering Sea ice extent was lower than it has been since written records began in 1850. The March 6 departure from the long-term average shows that an area of ice equivalent to California and Montana combined is missing from the Bering Sea. Zack Labe, a PhD candidate at the University of California at Irvine, says that although the past two years have brought historically low Bering Sea ice conditions, year-to-year trends there can fluctuate considerably. Labe says some years may see temporary upticks in Bering Sea ice extent, but that overall, climate change is now in the driver’s seat. A study published last year found that a marine heat wave in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in 2016 cannot be explained without including human-caused global...
Extreme weather in Europe linked to less sea ice and warming in the Barents Sea

Extreme weather in Europe linked to less sea ice and warming in the Barents Sea

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: August 30, 2018 SNIP: The cold, remote Arctic Ocean and its surrounding marginal seas have experienced climate change at a rate not seen at lower latitudes. Warming air, land and sea temperatures, and large declines in seasonal Arctic sea ice cover are all symptoms of the changing Arctic climate. Although these changes are occurring in relatively remote locations, there is growing evidence to link Arctic sea ice retreat to increasingly erratic weather patterns over the northern hemisphere. As sea ice declines, areas of open water increase, allowing the ocean to lose more heat to the atmosphere. Heat lost from the ocean to the atmosphere reduces the atmospheric pressure which provides more energy to storms and increases their cloud content through evaporation. North of Svalbard, Atlantic Water heat has been mixed up towards the surface, resulting in increased surface heat lost to the atmosphere over the ever greater area of open ocean. This change has recently been shown to enhance the rate of sea ice loss eastwards. In the Barents Sea, sea ice forms every autumn and melts in late spring/summer. In the northern part of the sea, a north-south change from cold to warm sea surface temperatures signals the presence of the Polar Front, which separates cold Arctic water from the warm Atlantic water. The meeting of the two water masses, its location and the temperature difference across it reflects changes in Barents Sea circulation. During years with low seasonal sea ice concentrations (when there’s more heat loss from more exposed open water), the north-south differences in atmospheric temperatures across the Barents Sea are reduced....
A huge stretch of the Arctic ocean is turning into the Atlantic right before our eyes

A huge stretch of the Arctic ocean is turning into the Atlantic right before our eyes

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: June 26, 2018 SNIP: Scientists studying one of the fastest-warming regions of the global ocean say changes in this region are so sudden and vast that in effect, it will soon be another limb of the Atlantic, rather than a characteristically icy Arctic sea. The northern Barents Sea, to the north of Scandinavia and east of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, has warmed extremely rapidly — by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit just since the year 2000 — standing out even in the fastest warming part of the globe, the Arctic. [T]his warming is being accompanied by a stark change of character, as the Atlantic Ocean is in effect taking over the region and converting it into a very different entity. While the Southern Barents is milder, the northern Barents has — until recently — had all the characteristics of an Arctic sea. It featured floating sea ice that, when it melted, helped to provide an icy, freshwater cap atop the ocean. This kept internal heat from escaping to the atmosphere, and also kept the ocean “stratified” — cold, fresher waters at the surface and warmer, Atlantic-originating waters down below. This situation, which obtains in much of the Arctic, was reinforced by the fact that freshwater is less dense than salt water, preserving stratification. But that’s changing. Less sea ice is floating down through the northern Barents Sea from higher Arctic latitudes, the research shows. Indeed, the lack of sea ice in the northern Barents Sea has been a regular feature of charts lately — at this very moment, an enormous stretch of ocean in this area...
‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring

‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: May 3, 2018 SNIP: In the middle of February, one-third of the ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s West Coast vanished within a week when an enormous pulse of heat swept over the Arctic. Scientists were stunned. This rapid meltdown precipitated a record-shattering decline in Bering Sea ice through the winter and into spring, which has threatened the very way of life in Alaska’s coastal villages — reliant on the ice cover for navigation and hunting. February and March ice levels were as low as far back as scientists can reconstruct, dating back more than 160 years. Now, the ice is almost entirely gone — just 10 percent of normal levels as of the end of April. “We’ve fallen off a cliff: very little sea ice remains in the Bering Sea,” tweeted Rick Thoman, an Alaska-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on April 29. The ice extent over the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Sea abutting Alaska’s northwest coast, is also abnormally depleted. It recently began its melt season earlier than ever before...