This Week in Ice: Jan. 7-13, 2018

DS8Fqz6WAAAxXdw.jpg

Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy

I took this photo on my local beach in southern Rhode Island early one morning at the start of the week. The whole shore was covered in thick ice, which I’ve never seen there, and the waves were sluggish in the 0 degree F/-18 degree C conditions. But this is nothing compared to just a little farther east around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which has seen the rapid growth of sea ice during our recent Arctic blast.

terra.JPG

Credit: Terra Satellite, Jan 7, 2018

Capturey

Cape Cod Bay from Rock Harbor Beach                                          Credit: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Meanwhile, global sea ice concentration is experiencing a troubling start to the year.

Let’s zoom in a little, so you can better see the dipping of 2018’s bright red line:

Capture

A new study has shown that melting sea ice is changing the flow of nutrients into the Arctic Ocean. With sea ice melting, sediment from the continental shelf containing nutrients, carbon, and trace metals is flowing into the Arctic Ocean. Along with increased light (also due to the melting of sea ice), this influx of nutrients could cause a phytoplankton bloom. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain, and it’s likely this increased productivity would affect the marine ecosystem.

Scientists are closely watching the Beaufort Gyre, a major wind-driven current in the Arctic Ocean, which has, historically, weakened every five to seven years and reversed direction. When this happens, it expels ice and freshwater into the eastern Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic.

But the gyre seems to be stuck and has been spinning clockwise for twelve years, collecting cold freshwater from melting sea ice, runoff from Russian and North American rivers, and from the Bering Sea. When the gyre does eventually slow and reverse direction, scientists are concerned that it will expel this icy freshwater into the Northern Atlantic, causing severe winters and a disruption to the fishing industry in northern Europe.

Sea Ice — Current Conditions

ARCTIC

Arctic sea ice is at a record low for this time of year.

Arc

Credit: NSIDC

arcy

Credit: NSIDC

Arctic sea ice has been particularly low in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, which connect with the northern Pacific Ocean.

ANTARCTIC

Antarctic Sea ice concentration is also far below the mean, though not quite as low as last year’s record low.

Ant

Anty

Ice Shelves & Icebergs

Strong El Niño events cause large changes in Antarctic ice shelves, a new study has found. While more snow falls on the surface during such events, changes in ocean circulation cause increased melting from below, resulting in a net loss of ice mass:

Iceberg A-86a is still bumping around near the Larsen C ice shelf from which it calved back in July.

Michael Wolovick, a glaciologist from Princeton has been studying whether building massive underwater walls of sand and stone at the mouths of unstable glaciers could slow or reverse their collapse.

I will be continuing the Sea Ice Sketch Project this weekend, and posting on Twitter as I complete each piece and continue my exploration of sea ice—as well as ice shelves and icebergs.

I’m ending this week’s post with some stunning imagery of sea ice, like spectacular abstract artworks, from NASA Earth Observatory.

Capturea

Newly formed sea ice (gray) in the Weddell Sea.                                        Credit: NASA/Nathan Kurtz.

Capturex

Pieces of sea ice, thick and thin, mingle in the Weddell Sea. Credit: NASA/Digital Mapping System.

Capturef

Sea ice near the Larsen C Ice Shelf.                                           Credit: NASA/Digital Mapping System.

As always, I am not a scientist but a writer/illustrator and science communicator passionately in love with sea ice, ice shelves, and polar ice in general. I welcome input and corrections from and connections with polar scientists as I learn more about this remarkable and vital part of our planet and bring this knowledge to a wider audience. 

2 thoughts on “This Week in Ice: Jan. 7-13, 2018

  1. Amazing, eh! I wish I’d been able to drive over there and see it! As far as the work I put into this, yes, it takes time each day gathering stories and the actual scientific studies behind them, but I love it. 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s