The “last Ice Area” an Arctic region known for its thick ice cover, may be more susceptible to climate change than scientists suspected, as per new study.
This frozen zone, which lies to the north of Greenland, earned its dramatic name because even though its ice grows and shrinks seasonally, much of the sea ice here was thought to be thick enough through summer’s warmth.
But during the summer of 2020, the Wandel sea in the eastern part of the Last Ice Area dramatically lost 50 percent of its overlying ice, bringing coverage there to its lowest since last recorded.
According to the study published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment on Thursday, fluctuating weather conditions and climate change has mainly played a significant role in gradual thinning of area’s long-standing ice year after year. This hints that Global warning may threaten the region more than prior climate models suggested.
While scientists have said most of the Arctic could be free of Summer ice seas by mid-century, the Last Ice Area was not part of that equation. They figure the 380,000 square mile area won’t be ice-free in the summer until around 2100, said study Co-author Kent Moore, a University of Toronto atmospheric Physicist.
As climate change melts other regions of the Arctic, that could spell trouble for the animals that depend on sea ice for breeding, hunting and foraging, as the Last Ice Area “has been considered to be a refuge for ice-dependent species in a future ice-free summer Arctic”, said Study Co-author Kristin Laidre, a principal researcher at the Polar Science Centre and an assistant professor in the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.
The last Ice Area spans more than 1,200 miles, reaching from Greenland’s northern coast to the western part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. There, sea ice is typically at least 5 years old, measuring about 13 feet thick.
The main cause for the sudden ice loss was extraordinary strong wind currents that pushed the ice out of the region, and down the coast of Greenland, Moore said. Approximately 20 % of the 2020 ice loss could be directly attributed to climate change, while 80% was linked to the wind and ocean-current anomalies, according to the researchers.