"Arctic Ice Melt" by Harley D. Nygren / Public Domain

Most of the Arctic’s ‘Baby Sea Ice’ Melts Before It Leaves the Nursery. And That’s a Problem.

Apr 2, 2019

By Stephanie Pappas

Sea ice born in the shallow seas off Russia rarely makes it out of its nursery before succumbing to melt.

New research finds that two decades ago, half of the sea ice formed near the Arctic coast of Russia went on a windblown journey through the Arctic Ocean and out via the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard before melting. Today, only about 20 percent of the ice born near Russia makes that journey.

That’s a big problem, said study leader Thomas Krumpen, an ocean ice physicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. Sea ice formed in shallow waters traps a lot of small particles, everything from sediments to algae to microplastic pollution to iron and other nutrients. When the ice melts in place rather than traveling, it affects the distribution of those substances.

“How will this change in transport affect the biogeochemical cycle in the Arctic Ocean as well as the ecosystem?” Krumpen said. “This is all poorly understood.”

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