The Arctic's Oldest, Thickest Sea Ice Is Breaking Up

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Arctic ice north of Greenland that normally remains frozen even during the summer has opened up, the Guardian reports.

The sea ice off the northern coast of Greenland is some of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic, due to weather patterns that push ice across Siberia to the coast of Greenland, where it compacts into piles more than 60 feet thick in some places. Since satellite observations began in the 1970s, open water has rarely been observed between the coast and the sea ice.

This summer, the ice patch has opened up twice thanks to strong, warm winds pushing the ice out to sea and an unprecedented heatwave in the northern hemisphere. "I cannot tell how long this open water patch will remain open, but even if it closes in few days from now, the harm will be done: the thick old sea ice will have been pushed away from the coast, to an area where it will melt more easily," Thomas Lavergne, a meteorologist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, told the Guardian.

Climate scientists have long been alarmed at the rapid changes occurring in the Arctic, and this summer has brought new extremes. Temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the Arctic Circle during this summer's northern heatwave—at least 30 degrees above average for this time of year—and wildfires crept into the region.