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Russian scientists explain difference between ice thawing in Eurasian, American Arctic

April 24, 15:57 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Researchers explain it by seasons and by specific air circulation in the Arctic

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© Lev Fedoseev/TASS

MOSCOW, April 24. /TASS/. A group of scientists with support from experts of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) described a mechanism, which explains why in the 21st century ice in the Eurasian Arctic thaws quicker than in the American part, the university’s press service said on Wednesday.

"Based on results of four expeditions in the Arctic Ocean and on satellite data, a group of Russian scientists with participation of MIPT experts described the ocean’s seasonal memory mechanism," the press service said. "The mechanism explains how the air circulation in the region contributes to the phenomenon, where in the 21st century ice in the Eurasian Arctic thaws quicker than in the American Arctic."

The global warming is more evident in the Arctic, than in any other places. The ice degradation causes even bigger warming and consequently - further ice thawing. This never-ending circle may be explained by the facts that sunlight is reflected from ice, and water, on the contrary, absorbs and accumulates the warmth. Ice degradation differs through the Arctic’s regions. Scientists say in the 2000s, in the Eurasian Arctic the ice cover has been degrading even in winter, while in the American Arctic - in summer only.

Researchers explain it by seasons and by specific air circulation in the Arctic region.

"In late September, the ice layer is most thin. At that time, the ocean gains actively the sun heat. But if cold air comes in from the Pole or from Greenland, it takes some warmth. And vice versa: warm air from the mainland adds to the ocean’s heating," the press service quoted Mikhail Varentsov, who participated in the studies.

Scientists call this mechanism the seasonal memory: in winter the ice layer depends on the atmospheric conditions during the previous summer. In order to describe and explain the climate changes in the Arctic, the scientists collected data on water temperature and composition at different depths, as well as data on air temperature and humidity, on wind and other weather parameters in two circumpolar regions. The tests were taken during expeditions on research vessels in August-September 2003, 2005, 2013, and 2015.


Consequences from ice degradation

On one hand, less ice in the Arctic makes it easier to work in the region. The thinner and smaller the ice layer is, the easier is the navigation. In the 20th century, even in summer navigation along the Northern Sea Route was possible with icebreakers only. Cargo transportation could be easier and cheaper if vessels need fewer or no icebreakers there.

"At the same time, the climate change breaks the ecosystem’s balance," MIPT’s representatives said. "Take, for example, polar bears or seals - they need ice for rest and hunting. Or plankton, which may begin to multiply uncontrollably in warmer upper layers of water."

The studies were organized under the NABOS project (Nansen and Amundsen Basin Observational System), which continues since 2002.

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