Recent cold snap helping Arctic sea ice, scientists find
There’s an upside to the extreme cold temperatures northern Canadians have endured in the last few weeks: scientists say it’s been helping winter sea ice grow across the Arctic, where the ice shrank to record-low levels last year.
Temperatures have stayed well in the -30s C and -40s C range since late January throughout the North, with the mercury dipping past -50 C in some areas.
Satellite images are showing that the cold spell is helping the sea ice expand in coverage by about 2 million square kilometres, compared to the average winter coverage in the previous three years.
“It’s nice to know that the ice is recovering,” Josefino Comiso, a senior research scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Branch of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, told CBC News on Thursday.
“That means that maybe the perennial ice would not go down as low as last year.”
Canadian scientists are also noticing growing ice coverage in most areas of the Arctic, including the southern Davis Strait and the Beaufort Sea.
“Clearly, we’re seeing the ice coverage rebound back to more near normal coverage for this time of year,” said Gilles Langis, a senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa.
Winter sea ice could keep expanding
The cold is also making the ice thicker in some areas, compared to recorded thicknesses last year, Lagnis added.
“The ice is about 10 to 20 centimetres thicker than last year, so that’s a significant increase,” he said.
If temperatures remain cold this winter, Langis said winter sea ice coverage will continue to expand.