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Climate change: Weakened ‘ice arches’ speed loss of Arctic floes

Climate change: Weakened 'ice arches' speed loss of Arctic floes

Look down on the Arctic from space and you can see some beautiful arch-like structures sculpted out of sea-ice.

They form in a narrow channel called Nares Strait, which divides the Canadian archipelago from Greenland.

As floes funnel southward down this restricted conduit, they ram up against the coastline to form a dam, and then everything comes to a standstill.

"They look just like the arches in a gothic cathedral," observes Kent Moore from the University of Toronto.

"And it's the same physics, even though it's ice. The stress is being distributed all along the arch and that's what makes it very stable," he told BBC News.

But the UoT Mississauga professor is concerned that these "incredible" ice forms are actually being weakened in the warming Arctic climate. They're thinning and losing their strength, and this bodes ill, he believes, for the long-term retention of all sea-ice in the region.

Directly to the north of Nares Strait is the Lincoln Sea. It's where you'll find some of the oldest, thickest floes in the Arctic Ocean.
It's this ice that will be the "last to go" when, as the computer models predict, the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer months sometime this century.

There are essentially two ways this old ice can be lost.
It can be melted in place in the rising temperatures or it can be exported.
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