Arctic sea ice grows and shrinks with the seasons and the ice has so far also lasted even through the warmest summers on record. However, now due to climate change, Kent Moore from the University of Toronto has observed that the beautiful arch-like structures sculpted out of sea ice are actually weakening due to climate change. He believes that the “incredible” ice is thinning and losing its strength, which bodes ill for the long-term retention of all sea ice in the region. 

While speaking to BBC, Moore described how the multi-layer ice is at risk not just of melting in place, but of floating southward into warmer regions. The Arctic ‘ice-arch’ is some of the oldest, thickest floes in the ocean, but the computer models have predicted that the region would become ice-free during summer months sometime this century. Moore believes that the region could see ice deficiency and global warming could hasten the disappearance of the “Last Ice Area”. 

Moore explained that over the last 20 years, the ice arches are definitely getting shorter. He said that data from the past 20 years show that the average duration of these arches is decreasing by about a week every year. The UoT professor noted that they used to last for about 200-250 days and now they last for 150-100 days. He added that the world was earlier losing about 42,000 sq km of ice every year through Nares Strait, but now it’s doubled and we’re losing around 86,000 sq km. 

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‘Targeted action won’t be sufficient’ 

Further, Moore said that the world needs to hang on to the oldest ice in the Arctic for as long as possible. If we manage to implement the ambition of the Paris Climate accord, global warming can be curtailed and reversed, he said. Moore added that the area of the oldest ice is also going to be an important refuge for those species that depend on the floating floes for their way of life. 

Moore remains hopeful that his analysis of the ice arches will focus more attention on this important region of the Arctic. However, he also said that action targeted specifically at preserving the arches won’t be sufficient to solve the problem. He said that his concern is that the last ice area may not last for as long as we think. He concluded that if we lose the ice arches, it will take a long time to replenish even if we do eventually manage to cool the planet. 

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