Recent observations show that Beaufort Sea ice was not as it appeared in the summer of 2009. Sea ice cover serves as an indication of climate and has implications for marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
In early September 2009, satellite measurements implied that most of the ice in the Beaufort Sea either was thick ice that had been there for multiple years or was thick, first-year ice.
However, in situ observations made in September 2009 by Barber et al. show that much of the ice was in fact "rotten" ice -- ice that is thinner, heavily decayed, and structurally weak due to a uniform temperature throughout.
The authors suggest that satellite measurements were confused because both types of ice exhibit similar temperature and salinity profiles near their surfaces and a similar amount of open water between flows. The authors note that while an increase in summer minimum ice extent in the past 2 years could give the impression that Arctic ice is recovering, these new results show that multiyear ice in fact is still declining.
The results have implications for climate science and marine vessel transport in the Arctic.
The research appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Authors include David G. Barber, Ryan Galley, Matthew G. Asplin, Kerri-Ann Warner and Mukesh Gupta, Centre for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba; Roger De Abreu, Canadian Ice Service, Environment Canada; Monika Pućko, Centre for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba, and Freshwater Institute, Fisheries and Oceans; Simon Prinsenberg, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans; Stéphane Julien, Laurentian Region, Canadian Coast Guard.