The Gateway Protecting the Arctic's Oldest Sea Ice Has Collapsed Months Ahead of Schedule

Every summer as the Arctic warms up, seasonal highways open on the ocean, allowing sea ice to migrate southward and Now, satellite data is revealing that the gateway to one critical highway—the Nares Strait dividing northwest Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island—has broken up months ahead of schedule. And that could spell even more trouble for the Arctic’s oldest and most critically-endangered sea ice.

The Gateway Protecting the Arctic's Oldest Sea Ice Has Collapsed Months Ahead of Schedule

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This has prompted conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund to push for greater ecological protections there, in what it’s dubbed the “Last Ice Area. ” Moore supports those protections—but at the same time, he worries about what earlier and earlier openings of the Nares Strait will mean for the region as a whole. “[The Last Ice Area] may not persist as long as people think if this is a new mode of ice loss,” he said. Longest Oil Spill in U. S.

The arch may simply not be as robust as it once was, which could help explain why it also had early breakups in 2008 and 2010, and why it didn’t form, at all, in 2007, as NASA’s Earth Observatory notes. “The fact that you’re seeing several of these early breakups in the last decade, it’s consistent with an overall warming of the Arctic,” Serreze said.

Serreze explained that while a different pathway—the Fram Strait between east Greenland and Svalbard— “rules the day” in terms of the total volume of ice exiting the Arctic, thick, multi-year ice tends to pile up along the shores of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and northern Greenland.

Normally, Baffin Bay just south of the Nares Strait remains closed off to marauding sea ice from the north until June, July or even August, thanks to the presence of an ice jam that forms at the strait’s northern mouth between November and January, taking on a spectacular, arch-like shape.

The area of the high Canadian Arctic around the Nares Strait is where climate models project that older, multi-year ice will hang on the longest.

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