Good news for Arctic surfers? The Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, was long covered in a perpetual layer of ice; not so anymore. Now, the area has seen waves 16 feet high thanks to warmer temperatures, scientists say in a new study, per National Geographic. The giant waves happened during a storm in 2012, the year the researchers collected their data. Such big waves could themselves contribute to a further reduction in ice. Waves break ice, and that gives the sun a chance to make the ocean even warmer.
Big waves can also result in quicker erosion on nearby shores, and could indirectly boost the release of greenhouse gases in the Arctic. "It is possible that the increased wave activity will be the feedback mechanism which drives the Arctic system toward an ice-free summer," the researchers write in Geophysical Research Letters. Not only would a lack of ice be bad news for local animals, the giant waves would make things tougher on humans drilling for oil or shipping items in the area, the Washington Post notes. Another recent Arctic-ice discovery: a lot of plastic.