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'Scary' First Hits Arctic's Thickest Ice

Oldest section of sea ice has already shattered 2 times this year
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2018 9:40 AM CDT
This June 2017 photo provided by the Norwegian Polar Institute shows a bowhead whale in the Fram Strait between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.   (Kit M. Kovacs, Christian Lydersen/Norwegian Polar Institute via AP)

(Newser) – Scientists called it "the last ice area," believing the oldest and thickest section of Arctic sea ice north of Greenland would be the last to remain as our planet warms. Turns out, it's already broken up twice this year, reports the Guardian. More than 13 feet thick on average, the ice piled along Greenland's north coast thanks to an ocean current flowing south from Siberia moved away from the coast in February in a first since satellite recording began. The move coincided with warm winds after a nearby weather station in February recorded 10 days with temperatures above freezing. The same thing happened again this month, as the weather station registered a record high temperature of 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit, per the Guardian.

"Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile," says a scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. Experts expect the area to freeze again soon. But "the harm will be done: The thick old sea ice will have been pushed away from the coast, to an area where it will melt more easily," adds a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, who describes the phenomenon as "scary." Also concerning is a similar change seen on Arctic land. Per National Geographic, the topmost layers of soil that insulate deep permafrost failed to freeze for the first time in memory in one Siberian area, raising concerns that greenhouse gases trapped in permafrost could be released sooner than expected. (Read more Arctic sea ice stories.)

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