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Greenland Sea Ice
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Greenland Sea Ice

August 26, 2014
On August 18, 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of ice in the Greenland Sea. (The center of the image is roughly 77.5° north latitude and 9° west longitude.) Thick tongues of glacial ice stretch over the fjords on the Greenland coast at image left. Farther offshore, loosely packed floes of sea ice make swirling, paisley patterns in the Fram Strait between northeastern Greenland and Svalbard. The swirls of ice are caused by winds and currents that steer the ice around the sea.

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas is now approaching its annual minimum extent, which typically occurs in September. In 2014, as in several recent years, the Greenland Sea has seen less ice and thinner ice passing through its waters. Walt Meier, a sea ice specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, noted: “Ice usually extends quite a bit further south in this region because the currents push older, thicker ice out from the Arctic. Even in the warmer, more southern region, it takes a while for that ice to melt. We’ve seen a few years recently with very little ice in the Greenland Sea. Thinner ice may be one factor, but it seems like the biggest issue is that winds have been blowing perpendicular to Fram Strait and limiting the amount of ice exiting the Arctic Ocean.”

As of August 19, 2014, sea ice covered about 5.98 million square kilometers (2.31 million square miles) of Arctic waters. That extent is comparable to the same date in 2013, and above the record-setting low year of 2012. Still, sea ice is nearly 20 percent below the 1981 to 2010 average, which was 7.04 million square kilometers (2.72 million square miles).

Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Mike Carlowicz, with reporting from Steve Cole, Alan Buis, and Patrick Lynch. Thanks to Claire Parkinson, Kelly Brunt, and Walt Meier for image-interpretation help.

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