MAY 07, 2020 9:21 AM PDT

How will Climate Change Impact Arctic Shore Ice?

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Many research projects have examined climate change’s impact on sea ice and glaciers. However, shorefast ice, which is vital to the economy of Arctic communities, has not been well studied. Brown University researchers recently analyzed how climate change could impact shorefast ice in northern Canada and western Greenland. The study was published this week in Nature: Climate Change

According to the study, shorefast ice represents 12% of global sea ice, but how climate change will impact it is mostly unknown. An article from Brown University regarding the study defines shorefast ice as “sea ice that forms along shorelines.” In the regions studied, this ice is used for transportation and sustenance hunting and fishing.

In the article from Brown, Sarah Cooley, lead author and Ph.D. student at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES), explained that “shorefast ice is something that’s most important from the standpoint of the people who use it.” She continues that while the loss of shorefast ice will have a small implication on the global climate, the real impact is felt by those who live in the Arctic. “And that’s why we’re studying it,” she remarked.

The researchers used 19 years of weather data and near-daily satellite imagery of 28 Arctic communities to document the timing of shorefast ice breakup. Using climate models, the researchers were able to predict how the timing of the ice breakup may change in each community as the climate warms. They concluded that by 2100, communities could face an estimated reduction of five to 44 days in the length of the springtime shorefast ice season.

“Five to 44 days” is undoubtedly a broad range of possible outcomes, and according to the Brown article, the researchers were surprised by these results. However, these projections do highlight how variable the impacts of climate change will be to Arctic communities, reflecting the local nature of the changes. As Cooley states in the Brown article, “One of the key takeaways for me is that even though the whole Arctic is going to warm and lose ice, we see very different outcomes from one community to another.” She emphasized how the variable outcomes may relate to the social, cultural, and economic differences of each community and that some may be more impacted than others.

Additionally, the coldest communities are projected to have the most significant reductions in the springtime shorefast ice season. Johnny Ryan, co-author and researcher at IBES, told Brown reporters that this is cause for concern. He said, “some of those places are considered to be the last remnants of truly polar ecosystems, and people talk a lot about preserving these areas in particular. Yet these are the areas that we find will lose the most ice.”

According to the Brown article, the research team hopes that mapping the local impacts of climate patterns will be useful for policymakers and other stakeholders. Understanding how changes will occur on a regional scale will better prepare policymakers and the Arctic communities facing the most considerable impacts of climate change.

Sources: Nature: Climate Change, Brown University

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
MAR 22, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAR 22, 2020
Narwhals With Larger Tusks Have a Better Chance of Finding a Mate
Narwhals are often referred to as the ‘unicorns of the sea’ because of the unicorn-esque tusks they grow on ...
MAR 22, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAR 22, 2020
The carbon coming from melting Arctic groundwater
New research published in Nature Communications shows evidence of a recently discovered source of carbon in the Arctic, ...
APR 07, 2020
Cancer
APR 07, 2020
Chemo drugs are leaking into our water
With cancer as the second leading cause of death globally, it comes as a surprise that we know very little up until now ...
APR 15, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 15, 2020
Using chemistry to predict volcanic eruptions
Researchers from The National Center for Scientific Research at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (CNRS/IPGP/IG ...
APR 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 28, 2020
Young Orangutans Must Learn a Lot Before Adulthood
Orangutans watch over their children for longer periods than any other primate besides humans. On average, most organs t ...
MAY 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAY 15, 2020
Fixing the Ozone Layer Resulted in Other Environmental Pollution
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was enacted in 1987. A new study has revealed that the ...
Loading Comments...