The delayed freezing of the Laptev Sea is caused by rising temperatures in the Russian Far North and the penetration of warm Atlantic waters into the Arctic Ocean, ecologists say and warn that late ice formation could trigger the entire Arctic. The average annual temperature in the Arctic Ocean has risen by 5 degrees after the heat wave in early summer and unusually early melting of ice.
The heat accumulated over the summer contributes to the fact that the heated air slowly rises into the atmosphere even now, when the daylight hours do not exceed two hours. The ice cover growth graph for this year is a flat line. As a result, ice-free areas are still observed in the sea.
“The lack of ice cover is unprecedented in the Siberian Arctic region”, - says University of Colorado researcher Zachary Leib. But this does not surprise scientists, because this development is fully consistent with the forecast of climate change.
Emission of gases into the atmosphere from industrial and agricultural enterprises increased the probability of heat waves in the Arctic by 600 times. The formation of polar ice is slowed down not only by the rise in air temperature. Climate change leads to the fact that warm Atlantic currents enter the Arctic and mix cold surface waters with warm deep ones. As a result, the water becomes warmer and does not freeze.
“These processes did not start yesterday. For the past 14 years, from 2007 to 2020, satellites have shown the smallest amounts of ice since satellite observation began in 1979”, - says Walt Meyer, lead researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Center. Old ice disappears, only seasonal icing remains. Ice thickness throughout the Arctic has halved since the 1980s. This trend will continue until the Arctic reaches an ice-free summer, says Walt Meyer. According to models developed by scientists, this should be expected between 2030 and 2050. Now the question is when this will happen, and whether it will happen at all, the scientist believes.
Scientists are alarmed that late freezing of the sea will accelerate the melting of the permanent ice at the North Pole. Reducing it reduces the white surface that reflects the sun's rays. However, this does not explain why the Arctic heats up twice as fast as the rest of the Earth's surface.
In the Laptev Sea along the coast in early winter, large ice masses form, which drift westward and carry nutrients beyond the Arctic Circle towards Greenland Svalbard, where ice melts in spring. If ice forms later, it will be thinner. It will melt before reaching the Framov Strait. Thus, the plankton will reduce the nutrient medium. This, in turn, will lead to an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The more open areas of water in the ocean, the more restless the sea will be and the more warm water from the depths will get to the surface.
Dr. Stefan Hendricks, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, states that the trend towards shrinking polar ice caps is threatening, but predictable.
“This is despair, not shock. The trend was predicted many years ago, but none of the decision makers did anything".
Now scientists are trying to understand when the predictions will come true - in 10 years or in 30. They can do nothing more.