Climate change: The ‘Last Ice Area’, located in the Arctic’s Ice north of Greenland, has started melting earlier than what the scientists had expected, as the scientific community had deemed this area strong enough to be able to withstand the effects of global warming. However, researchers have now published a paper in Communications Earth & Environment journal saying that the area with Last Ice Area or the LIA witnessed record low sea ice concentration in August last year, according to a report in IE. The researchers have also said that likely due to climate change, the sea ice has been thinning for a few years now.
The National Geographic had noted in 2015 that climate projections estimated complete disappearance of Arctic’s summer ice by 2040, but it added that the only place that had the ability to withstand climate change and global warming would be the area of Arctic ice called Last Ice Area.
The report cited the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as saying that the extent of the Arctic summer ice was shrinking due to climate change, which was an issue not only for the wildlife in the area, but also for the local Inuit population. However, even as experts had expected this area – located to the north of Canada and Greenland – to brave the global warming, it is apparently melting as well.
LIA is a key area that scientists were banking upon to support ice-dependent species when the nearby ice was melting away. Seals use the area for creating dens for their offsprings, while polar bears use it to hunt the seals. The surface of the ice is also used by walruses for foraging.
University of Washington had led the research that has been recently published, and the team said that the observation of the first sign of change in the LIA goes back to 2018, and in August 2020, the vulnerability of the sea ice to the long-term effects of global warming were noticed. They added that just like other parts of the Arctic Ocean, the ice in LIA had been thinning in a gradual manner over the years.
With the help of satellite images, the researchers found that the concentration of sea ice in the area was at a low of 50% as of August 14 last year, of which, they are attributing 80% of thinning to normal factors related to the weather, like winds breaking up the ice and moving it away. The remaining 20%, however, was attributed to longer-term thinning caused by global warming. Lead author of the study Axel Schweiger said that in the winter and spring of 2020, patches of thicker and older ice had drifted into the area, but the thinner, newer ice was sufficiently melted to expose the open ocean, which then led to the beginning of a vicious cycle in which the open ocean absorbed heat energy, as a result melting more ice regardless of the fact that some very thick ice was present in the area.
However, the report said that the study’s results are not applicable to the entire area due to the fact that there are some unknowns.