November 27, 2009
One of Canada’s top northern researchers says the permanent Arctic sea ice that is home to the world’s polar bears and usually survives the summer has all but disappeared.
Experts around the world believed the ice was recovering because satellite images showed it expanding. But David Barber says the thick, multiyear frozen sheets crucial to the northern ecosystem have been replaced by thin “rotten” ice which can’t support the weight of the bears.
“It caught us all by surprise because we were expecting there to be multiyear sea ice – the whole world thought it was multiyear sea ice,” said Dr. Barber, who just returned from an expedition to the Beaufort Sea.
“Unfortunately what we found was that the multiyear [ice]has all but disappeared. What’s left is this remnant, rotten ice.”
But it is worse than it seems. According to PIOMAS, the ice is much thinner now than it was in 2009 – when all that was left was thin, rotten first-year ice.