Counter-Intuitive: Sea Ice Hazards Block Climate Research

June 14, 2017

Remember that story a few years ago about the Antarctic researchers trapped in the ice?
Deniers made a lot of mirth about that one, as if it showed something inconsistent with the climate change process.
What they didn’t get, being, well, science deniers – is that ice in that particular region of Antarctica has been historically fairly predictable and stable, but with increased breakup and melting due to climate change, the area had become much less predictable, with masses of broken ice surging in places they had not been seen before.


Similarly, in the arctic ocean, researchers have been telling a similarly counter-intuitive  story – as sea ice retreats, unpredictable movements of ice actually make operations more hazardous. Researcher David Barber discusses in video above, starting at about 1:29.

Thanks to reader redskylite for this one.

Toronto Globe and Mail:

An Arctic climate change study has been cancelled because warming temperatures have filled the sea off northern Newfoundland with hazardous ice up to eight metres thick.

Instead of cruising north with a team of scientists, the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen has been busy freeing fishing boats and helping other ships surrounded in ice that usually doesn’t travel so far south at this time of year.

David Barber, the expedition’s chief scientist, says the irony is that climate change itself has put the climate change research project on ice.

“I have been in the Arctic for 35 years and this is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had,” he said Monday.

“Normally these conditions aren’t so bad. This is climate change fully in action – affecting our ability to make use of marine resources and transport things.”

Barber said warming temperatures have made the ice in the high Arctic thinner. When buffeted by storms and high winds, the ice can move much more freely and travels south on ocean currents.

The expedition of 40 scientists was planning to travel to Hudson Bay, but the Amundsen had to be diverted to help ships caught in the Strait of Belle Isle and along the coast of Newfoundland.

Barber, a University of Manitoba Arctic ice expert, said the heavy icebreaker helped rescue stranded fisherman and carved a path for tankers carrying diesel fuel to remote communities.

At times, the ice was so thick the ship had to repeatedly back up and ram its way through the frozen barrier.

“Typically we run into this when we overwinter in the High Arctic,” he said. “To be doing that off the Newfoundland coast in June was completely unheard of.”

Scientists said the ice conditions are another indicator that climate change is not something that is going to happen – it is already here.

Barber said the shifting of thick ice will have implications for ship movements in other areas of the Arctic, including Baffin Bay and parts of the Northwest Passage.

He suggested the federal government needs to be more prepared for the changes through better monitoring of ice conditions and ensuring that Canada’s fleet of aging heavy icebreakers is up to the task.

“It was a real eye-opener for me – just how unprepared we are for climate change when it comes to ice hazards,” he said.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us in the country.”





14 Responses to “Counter-Intuitive: Sea Ice Hazards Block Climate Research”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    In case of problems, you can be sure that Putin will come to the rescue with this ship.

  2. Glenn Martin Says:

    OK. Every week something unflattering about Russia must be posted to wear down V so we can get on with adult discussions.

  3. redskylite Says:

    Pardon me for interrupting the Putin fan club material, (I am not interested in the height of Putin at all) and this distracts completely from the thrust of the blog.

    Like the Antarctic incident earlier, James Denier Delingpole tries to repeat the tactic of turning the Arctic observation into mirth against honest scientific researchers, in the dreaded Breitbart rag.

    Fortunately “ClimateFeedback” is on the ball.

    “This in turn has created a situation where the multiyear ice still remaining in the high Arctic is much more mobile than it used to be. There are lots of peer reviewed papers which show this increase in velocity both at the local and regional scales. The ice we observed came from one of these high Arctic sources and made its way into the Labrador current and travelled all the way south to Newfoundland. The fact that this ice made it that far south is something that planners and policy makers need to be concerned about, and something we in science will continue to study—both for understanding the processes driving this [transport] and being able to make predictions about when and where we can expect these types of ice hazards in the future.”

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