In early 2022, the Arctic experienced the strongest cyclone on record, with winds reaching 100km/h. While storms are not uncommon in the Arctic, this caused a large loss of sea ice that surprised the researchers.
In the Arctic, sea ice — frozen seawater floating above the ocean in the polar regions — reaches its maximum coverage in March. and what is believed to be its maximum thickness in April, researchers said in a study published in living science.
However, this year, with the accumulation of sea ice, suffered a major setback that had unforeseen consequences.
The storm that ripped through the Arctic
Between January 20 and 28, the storm developed over Greenland and it moved northeast towards the Barents Sea, where huge waves reached 8 meters in height.
Like a wild horse those waves shook up and down the sea ice on the edge of a 2-metre ice floewhile even larger waves swept 100 km towards the center of the pack.
Although weather models accurately predicted the evolution of the stormsea ice models did not predict the extent to which the storm would affect ice thickness.
Six days after the storm dissipated, sea ice in stricken waters north of Norway and Russia shrank by 0.5mtwice as much as predicted by the models.
Researchers analyzed the storm in a study published Oct. 26 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
Arctic Ice Loss: An Unprecedented Concern
“The six-day loss of sea ice was the largest change we could find in historical observations since 1979.and the area of ice lost was 30 percent greater than the previous record,” lead author Ed Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement.
“Ice models predicted some losses, but only half of what we’ve seen in the real world.”
The study found that atmospheric heat from the storm minimally affected the area, so something else must be afoot.
The study authors also offered some insight into why the sea ice was shrinking so much and so fast.
It could be because their models miscalculated the thickness of the sea ice before the storm. Or maybe the storm’s violent waves broke up the sea ice more than expected.
It could also be that the waves kicked up deeper, warmer waters, which then rose to melt the sea ice sheet off the bottom.
Sea ice thickness is very difficult to study and model. Interactions between ice, ocean, and atmosphere affect sea ice thickness in ways that scientists don’t fully understand.
Furthermore, some of these interactions occur on a scale too small to model. For instance, Scientists know the pools of meltwater that appear above sea ice during the Arctic summer affect sea ice thickness, but this effect is difficult to model.
Meltwater puddles can also confuse satellites, which can measure those puddles as “ocean” rather than water on top of sea ice.
And as the climate warms, it’s more important than ever to understand Arctic storms and their effect on sea ice.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications in November, a team of NASA scientists found that sea ice loss and rising temperatures will lead to more intense storms in the Arctic by the end of the century.
Those more intense storms could bring precipitation that would melt sea ice.it would cause warmer temperatures and stir up warmer water in the depths.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.