NEWS: Iqaluit May 16, 2018 - 8:00 am

Floe edge near Iqaluit closer than usual: Canadian Ice Service

Percentage of thick, durable multi-year ice has decreased


The sea ice in Frobisher Bay is thinner than usual this time of year, and the floe edge is closer. Flying into Iqaluit, you can see blue open water not far from the city.

The floe edge is now about 30 nautical miles down Frobisher Bay. That’s closer than usual, and it’s not as extensive, confirmed Gilles Langis, a senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service.

“We’re ahead of the game,” Langis said of the early retreat of ice in Frobisher Bay.

But he said it’s hard to say at this point whether that means the ice will be out of the bay earlier than usual, that is, by some time in mid-July.

Pack ice in the Davis Strait could end up being blown into the bay, as has happened during some summers in the past, he said.

And over the past 25 years, there has been a lot of variation in when Frobisher Bay becomes ice-free, Langis said.

The ice went out of Frobisher Bay by July 9 in 2011, the earliest time recorded, but that was two full months earlier than in 1992, when ice persisted in the bay until Sept. 9.

This year the ice is young, mainly first-year ice. Last month, its thickness still measured about 1.4 metres, a little less than five feet, Langis said.

Recently, the CIS reported that the proportion of multi-year ice cover in the eastern Arctic varied from one to five per cent.

That means most of the ice cover in the eastern Arctic is first year ice, which is less thick and durable than multi-year ice.

First-year ice grows to a thickness of about 1.5 to two metres (five to 6.5 feet) tover a winter season, while older ice is often three to four metres (9.8 to 13.1 feet) thick, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which has tracked sea ice since 1979.

The data centre said last week that the Arctic Ocean’s total multi-year ice cover has declined from 61 per cent in 1984 to 34 per cent in 2018.

Only two per cent of the ice age cover is categorized as five-plus years, the centre said.

The relatively young age of the ice raises concern among scientists that, under a warming climate, Arctic sea ice might start to melt away completely in the summer by 2100.