“While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here.”
NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. ____________________________________________________________________
“A fracturing event in this area is not unusual because the Beaufort Gyre tends to push ice away from Banks Island and the Canadian Archipelago,” explained Walt Meier of the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). “Point Barrow can act like a ‘pin point’ where the ice catches and fractures to the north and east.”
In February, however, a series of storms passing over central Alaska exacerbated the fracturing. Strong westerly winds prompted several large pieces of ice to break away in an arc-shaped wave that moved progressively east. By the end of February, large pieces of ice had fractured all the way to the western coast of Banks Island, a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles).
While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here. The age of the sea ice in this area was one of the key reasons this event became so widespread. “The region is covered almost completely by seasonal or first-year ice—ice that has formed since last September,” said Meier. “This ice is thinner and weaker than the older, multi-year ice, so it responds more readily to winds and is more easily broken up.”
- NSIDC (2013, March 6) A fractured winter. Accessed March 28, 2013.
- Climate Central (2013, March 13) Large Fractures Spotted in Vulnerable Arctic Sea Ice. Accessed March 28, 2013.
- Earth Observatory Arctic sea ice.
- Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 24) Arctic freezing season ends with a loud crack. Accessed March 28, 2013.
- Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 2) The cracks of dawn. Accessed March 28, 2013.
Canada’s Arctic ice cracks in ‘spectacular’ event By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News