(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists studying the impact of the strongest Arctic cyclone on record have found that it caused a huge and rapid loss of sea ice, which was “shattered” by waves on the surface of the water.
Cyclones are a common occurrence in the Arctic and are known to affect the movement of heat and moisture across the region, but the storm that hit the region northeast of Greenland in January of this year was overwhelming.
When the cyclone roared over the Arctic Ocean, it warmed the ocean waters, creating waves up to 8 meters high.
The cyclone broke the ice
This was not surprising, as forecasters accurately predicted the storm’s start eight days before it began. What was surprising, however, was the effect it had on sea ice in the area.
A new analysis of satellite data shows that the cyclone-induced waves retained most of their strength as they swept across the sea ice, traveling up to 100 km to the center of the ice sheet and causing it to rise and fall by as much as 2 meters.
Six days after the storm, the sea ice was found to have thinned considerably, losing over 0.5m of thickness in certain areas.
As for how the cyclone led to such a rapid loss of sea ice, scientists have a few ideas. The increased temperature of the storm could have been a possible cause, but the study rejected this idea.
Instead, scientists say the waves lifted warmer water from the deep layers of the ocean and melted the ice from below.
The sheer mechanical force of the huge crashing waves is another factor that may have broken up the ice floes more effectively than the models predicted.
It’s also possible that the sea ice was thinner than models suggested even before the storm hit, the researchers said.
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