The ‘Last Ice Area’ is a narrow band of ice that covers about a million square miles across the Northern coasts of Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, which has long withstood the effects of climate change – until now.
A team from the University of Toronto found that the ice arches holding the frozen water together could soon collapse due to melting, resulting in large chunks of ice floating south into warmer regions.
Using satellite images, researchers observed warming trends that show the ice arches are shifting and losing mass at twice the rate of the entire Arctic.
Losing the Last Ice Area could disrupt the entire ecosystem, including ice algae, brine channels and photogenic species like polar bears.
Professor Kent Moore, who was involved with the study, said: ‘This very old ice is what we’re concerned about.’
‘The hope is that this area will persist into the middle part of this century or even longer. And then, hopefully, we’ll eventually be able to cool the planet down.’
‘The ice will start growing again, and then this area can act as a sort of seed.’
A team from the University of Toronto found that the ice arches holding the Last Ice Area together could soon collapse due to melting, resulting in large chunks of ice floating south into warmer regions.
The ice arches typically develop at the northern and southern ends of Nares Strait and play a major role in keeping the ‘Last Ice Area’ in place.
‘The Arctic Ocean is evolving towards an ice pack that is younger, thinner, and more mobile and the fate of its multi-year ice is becoming of increasing interest,’ reads the study published in Nature Communications.
The team used sea ice motion retrievals captured by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, which allowed them to record the behavior of the ice arches and changes in the amount of ice.
They used data of ice arches along Nares Strait, which is 24 miles wide and 372 miles long.
Using satellite images, researchers observed warming trends that show the ice arches are shifting and losing mass at twice the rate of the entire Arctic
This area runs between Greenland and Ellesmere Island from the Arctic Ocean into Baffin Bay.
‘The Last Ice Area is losing ice mass at twice the rate of the entire Arctic,’ Moore said.
‘We realized this area may not be as stable as people think.’
The data shows that duration of arch formation has decreased over the past 20 years and the mass of ice exported through Nares Strait has increased.
‘It’s really quite profound to imagine a 100-kilometre-long barrier of ice that remains stationary for months at a time, said Moore.
‘That’s more than twice as long as Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Causeway – the world’s longest continuous bridge over water.’
‘It speaks to the strength of ice.’
However, the strength is dwindling, Moore warns.
The ice arches typically develop at the northern and southern ends of Nares Strait and play a major role in keeping the ‘Last Ice Area’ in place
Ice arches form only part of the year and when they break apart in spring, ice floats down the Nares Strait – but this could happen much sooner than previously observed.
‘Every year, the reduction in duration is about one week,’ Moore said.
‘They used to persist for about 200 days and now they’re persisting for about 150 days. There’s quite a remarkable reduction.
‘We think that it’s related to the fact the ice is just thinner and thinner ice is less stable.’
A section of the Last Ice Are was deemed as the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area by the Canadian government in 2019.
A section of the Last Ice Area was deemed as the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area by the Canadian government in 2019. Tuvaijuittuq is Inuktut for ‘the place where the ice never melts’
Tuvaijuittuq is Inuktut for ‘the place where the ice never melts.’
Also last year it was revealed that it is melting twice as fast as any iced in the area.
The American Geophysical Union, an accredited earth science organization, shared a video showing the oldest and thickest solid layer of frozen ocean water has loss 95 percent of its mass over the past 35 years –which experts say is a ‘dramatic indicator’ of climate change.
The area is now dominated by thinner and more mobile ice that is more susceptible to melting, which has ‘led to stresses on the entire spectrum of ice‐dependent organisms from ice algae to polar bears’.
However, according to WWF-Canada, ‘even with effective action on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the sea ice will shrink and last shorter periods in winter.’