Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Arctic summer ice anomaly shocks scientists

20.09.2006
Satellite images acquired from 23 to 25 August 2006 have shown for the first time dramatic openings – over a geographic extent larger than the size of the British Isles – in the Arctic’s perennial sea ice pack north of Svalbard, and extending into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole.

Observing data from Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument and the AMSR-E instrument aboard the EOS Aqua satellite, scientists were able to determine that around 5-10 percent of the Arctic’s perennial sea ice, which had survived the summer melt season, has been fragmented by late summer storms. The area between Spitzbergen, the North Pole and Severnaya Zemlya is confirmed by AMSR-E to have had much lower ice concentrations than witnessed during earlier years.


The image on the left is an Envisat ASAR mosaic of Arctic ice acquired on 24 August 2005. (Courtesy: Polar View) The right image is an EOS Aqua AMSR-E ice concentration acquired on the same day. (Courtesy: Leif Toudal Pedersen). The uniform grey area in the ASAR image and the pink colour in the AMSR-E image are both consistent all the way around the pole (black hole), indicating pack ice with 100% ice concentration.


The image on the left is an Envisat ASAR mosaic of Arctic ice acquired on 23 August 2006. (Courtesy: Polar View) The right image is an EOS Aqua AMSR-E ice concentration acquired on 24 August 2006. (Courtesy: Leif Toudal Pedersen). There is a significant extent of leads – fractures and openings in the sea-ice cover – just below the pole in both the ASAR image, seen as splashes of dark grey and black, and the AMSR-E image (with British Isles shown for scale), seen by the high concentration of yellow, orange and green colours, signifying low ice concentrations.

Mark Drinkwater of ESA’s Oceans/Ice Unit said: “This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low ice seasons. It is highly imaginable that a ship could have passed from Spitzbergen or Northern Siberia through what is normally pack ice to reach the North Pole without difficulty.

"If this anomaly trend continues, the North-East Passage or ‘Northern Sea Route’ between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10-20 years."

During the last 25 years, satellites have been observing the Arctic and have witnessed reductions in the minimum ice extent – the lowest amount of ice recorded in the area annually – at the end of summer from around 8 million km² in the early 1980s to the historic minimum of less than 5.5 million km² in 2005, changes widely viewed as a consequence of greenhouse warming.

Satellite observations in the past couple of years have also shown that the extent of perennial ice is rapidly declining, but this strange condition in late August marks the first time the perennial ice pack appears to exhibit thinner and more mobile conditions in the European sector of the Central Arctic than in earlier years.

Both sets of images were taken by two different satellite instruments – ASAR on the left and AMSR-E on the right. In the coloured AMSR-E images, ice cover, or the concentration of ice, is represented by the colour. Pink represents pack ice and the colour blue open water. Intermediate colours orange, yellow, and green indicate lower ice concentrations of 70%, 50% and 30%, respectively. In the ASAR images, ice cover is represented by the uniform grey area which extends radially-outwards from the North Pole, represented by the central black hole.

The set of images on the top were both acquired on 24 August 2005, while the bottom left ASAR image was acquired on 23 August 2006 and the AMSR-E on 24 August 2006. In 2005, the uniform grey area in the ASAR image and the pink colour in the AMSR-E image are both consistent all the way around the pole (black hole), indicating pack ice with 100% ice concentration.

However in 2006 there is a significant extent of leads – fractures and openings in the sea-ice cover – just below the pole in both the ASAR image, seen as splashes of dark grey and black, and the AMSR-E image (with British Isles shown for scale), seen by the high concentration of yellow, orange and green colours, signifying low ice concentrations.

In the last weeks, what was open water has begun to freeze, as the autumn air temperatures over the Arctic begin to fall. Although a considerable fraction of darker leads can still be seen in the area using ASAR, the AMSR-E sensor no longer shows openings.

ASAR is an active microwave instrument which sends periodic radar pulses toward the Earth and measures the signals return. AMSR-E is a passive microwave instrument which does not send radar pulses down but receives radiation naturally emitted from the Earth. Passive microwave data contain a certain amount of ambiguity in interpretation of ice types, particularly in mid summer during melting. However, this ambiguity is removed in high resolution active microwave data.

Though the reason for the considerable change in the ice pack configuration is still unknown, it is likely due to the stormy weather conditions in August that characterised the month.

The effect stormy conditions have on ice is illustrated in this ASAR image, taken on 25 August 2006, as the ice in the red circle is divergent as a consequence of a low pressure system centred on the North Pole.

"As autumn freeze-up begins, the current pattern will undoubtedly precondition the ice situation in the Central Arctic for the subsequent ice season," Drinkwater said.

Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEM7ZF8LURE_planet_0.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>