Annual Freezing of Arctic Sea Ice Hasn't Yet Started, 'Unprecedented' Delay Is Puzzling Scientists

  • Researcher at the Colorado State University said 2020 is another year that is consistent with a rapidly changing Arctic

  • Arctic will have its first ice-free summer, which will occur between 2030 and 2050, said researchers

It has been noticed that for the first time in history, at least since scientists started keeping records, in Siberia the Arctic sea ice has not yet started freezing and it has raised concerns among the researchers.

As per the climate scientists the delay in this natural event, noticed in the Laptev Sea, has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in Russia's northern region and the intrusion of Atlantic waters. The scientists have also warned about the impact of such incidents in the polar region.

The ocean temperature in the Arctic has been more than 5° Celsius above the average. In fact, researchers noted a record-breaking heatwave in the Siberian Arctic between January and June. Scientists also noticed the unusual decline in sea ice last year too.

Laptev Sea
Laptev Sea ice formation Wikimedia commons

An Unprecedented Event

The graph of Laptev sea-ice extent shows a healthy seasonal pulse that has a flat line in late October, which is not usual. Now, there is a record amount of open Arctic sea without crystals. Zachary Labe, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University said that this delayed annual freezing "is unprecedented" in the Siberian Arctic area and this is in line with the expected impact of human-caused environmental changes.

The researcher told The Guardian that "2020 is another year that is consistent with a rapidly changing Arctic". Unless the greenhouse gases are systematically reduced, "the likelihood of our first 'ice-free' summer will continue to increase by the mid-21st century," he said.

But along with the warmer temperature in the region, the dramatic climate change is also pushing the balmy Atlantic currents toward the Arctic sea—which is making it difficult to form the ice as the usual arrangement between the cooler surface and warm deep waters are breaking up.

Arctic ice Wikimedia commons

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center said that a huge amount of old ice in the Arctic has been disappearing. According to him the downward trend would continue until the Arctic will have its first ice-free summer—which will occur between 2030 and 2050, showed data.

The leader of the world's biggest mission to the North Pole, Markus Rex warned that their expedition has clearly shown signs of dying Arctic, while another researcher Matthew Shupe, said that the ice is declining "very fast." As per Shupe, "we need to understand the Arctic in order to understand how it is playing along with the rest of global change."

Scientists are concerned that this delay in the formation of ice could accelerate the decline of the ice cap. Researchers explained several times that a bigger ice sheet means, more amount of the sun's heat can be sent back into space and that is extremely required to balance the atmosphere.

Citing the delay in freezing, Dr. Stefan Hendricks, a sea ice physics specialist at the Alfred Wegener Institute said, "It is more frustrating than shocking," as this exact situation has been predicted for a long time, "but there has been little substantial response by decision-makers."