Friday, October 30, 2009

16-km wide floe of Arctic ice disintegrates in 5 minutes

Canadian scientists on an icebreaker working in the Beaufort Sea went looking for multiyear Arctic ice - something that used to cover the Arctic at depths up to 80 meters thick.

They have reported back and the news is not good. To make a long story short, they didn't find much at all. They just found hundreds of kilometers of "rotten ice", and seas that an icebreaker can plow through at 13 knots. This ice is made from bits and pieces of ice left over from previous years covered by jsut a thin layer of one-year ice.

David Barber, the Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said that the ice is melting extraordinarily fast. "I've never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic ... it was very dramatic," he said.

One ice floe they did find was 6-8 meters thick and about 16 kilometers wide. This small island of thicker ice disintegrated in 5 minutes after being buffeted by some waves.

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