Where’s the Ice?: Arctic Ocean Diaries No. 9

Editor’s note: Julia Whitty is on a three-week-long journey aboard the the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, following a team of scientists who are investigating how a changing climate might be affecting the chemistry of ocean and atmosphere in the Arctic.

Sea ice in the Western Arctic on 03 October 2012.  Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Sea ice in the Western Arctic on 03 October 2012. Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

The big story of this cruise is sea ice. As in, there isn’t any. At least not in our part of the Arctic Ocean. This year set a new record for lowest Arctic sea ice extant. So our odds of seeing any at this time of year weren’t good to begin with.

Still, almost everyone who set foot on the icebreaker Healy was hoping to encounter some. Sadly we haven’t seen any ice aside from what’s frozen on the decks and windows of the ship.

But the sea ice is growing fast now. The top map shows sea ice extent in this part of the Arctic on 03 October, the day I arrived in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. This analysis comes from the National Ice Center (NIC). Pink areas suggest ice cover of 80 percent or greater. Yellow marks marginal ice formation.

If you measure from due north of Point Barrow, Alaska, the ice front was roughly 440 nautical miles (506 miles / 815 kilometers) from land on 03 October.

Sea ice extent in the western Arctic as of 20 October 2012. Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)Sea ice extent in the western Arctic as of 20 October 2012. Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

This next map shows the sea ice extent as of yesterday, 20 Oct 2012. On that day, according to the NIC analysis, the ice front reached to within ~133 nautical miles (153 miles / 246 kilometers) of Point Barrow.

Averaged out, that out a growth rate of 18 nautical miles (20 miles / 33 kilometers) a day. Though in reality the sea ice advanced more slowly in the early part of the month and is galloping faster now.

The red track line marks Healy’s meandering for the past two-plus weeks as we visit mooring stations and CTD lines across the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate