A recent expedition to the Beaufort Sea revealed that “multiyear” Arctic sea ice is in effect, nonexistent, Reuters reports.
Multiyear ice has “stiffer” composition than first year ice, and makes navigation through Arctic regions extremely difficult, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
The expedition aimed to locate a large multiyear ice pack, but instead found almost exclusively thin layers, around 20 inches thick, of easily navigable ice according to Reuters. Satellite data that supports the observations of the expedition was released earlier this month by the NSIDC. They reported that only 19 percent of sea ice was over 2 years old, a percentage far below the 1981-2000 average of 52 percent sea ice cover.
Expedition member and climate expert, David Barber a University of Manitoba professor, told Reuters that shipping across the pole is now a feasible option.
“I would argue that, from a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic,” Barber said.
While the loss of multiyear ice could be positive for companies/governments looking for an extension to their shipping seasons, it potentially leaves the Arctic region wide open for unprecedented levels of development in an already troubled ecosystem.
Read more of Circle of Blue’s coverage on Arctic ice here.