Another Arctic cyclone chews up thinning sea ice

AnchorageJuly 26, 2013 

A cyclone churns toward the North Pole in August 2012.

NASA

From The Canadian Press: Arctic cyclones are not unusual, but they seem to be getting stronger, say scientists who are keeping an eye on the latest storm to swirl toward the North Pole.

 “We’re really watching this year with a lot of fascination,” said Matthew Asplin, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba.

Arctic cyclones are driven by low-pressure systems in which winds of up to 100 km/h blow counterclockwise in spiral more than 1,000 kilometers across. They occur in both winter and summer but are usually stronger in winter.

Cyclones are not unusual in the Arctic, but seem to be changing in recent years, said David Barber, one of Canada’s top sea-ice experts.

“These cyclones are not getting more frequent, but they are getting deeper — which means stronger,” he said.

And they’re getting harder on sea ice, which they break up through wave action associated with high winds and through rainfall, which darkens the ice and makes it absorb more solar energy. The storms also bring up water from the depths, which is actually warmer than surface water.

A summer Arctic cyclone last year was one of the largest ever recorded. Scientists said then they don't think sea ice loss is the cause of the bigger storms.

Read more: Scientists watch Arctic cyclone chew up sea ice

Meanwhile, a meltwater pond on sea ice at the North Pole, seen in images from a camera mounted nearby, is not that unusual or large, a scientist tells The Atlantic.

This is not the first time scientists have observed a melt pond at the North Pole, nor is it the largest.

"I have seen much more extensive ponding," James Morison, the principal investigator for the North Pole Environmental Observatory [wrote] in an email. "Because we use wide angle lenses the melt pond looks much bigger than it is."

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