The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' --Isaac Asimov
That's Funny… random header image

April [snow] showers bring May… mud.

May 10th, 2013 by eric

please note: this is an entry for the official Barrow Sea Ice Course Blog. Please check it out and follow along during the course!



Our friends and neighbors down south are enjoying the warm sunny days of spring, but here in Barrow the ground is still covered with a thick blanket of snow. At least, most of it is. In some places, the snow has melted away and left mud puddles in its place. A generation or two ago, this mud would have seemed strange because it was too warm, too early. Now it is becoming the new normal.


And as the weather changes the people are learning to adapt — they have to. A combination of unseasonably warm weather (i.e. above freezing) and strong winds have already led to several unusual events this winter where large pieces of ice broke off near shore and floated off into the horizon. In some places in town you can see open water from the beach — a sight so unusual for May that it has become a local attraction, with people stopping by the Gravel Pit to check out the open lead.


This afternoon we were on the ice demonstrating ice coring techniques. Shortly after we returned, there was a lot of chatter on the radios about the ice: it was cracking and shifting. Eventually a call went out to evacuate the ice, sending dozens of local whale hunters scrambling for shore. As the Arctic pack ice gets thinner and thinner over time — it's already lost about 70% of its volume — these kind of events will become more frequent. This is dangerous for the hunters and whalers who spend many hours on the ice pursuing their livelihoods. And they may not know it, but it is also dangerous for those enjoying the warm sunny days of spring in the south, who face a more uncertain climate future as the Arctic sea ice cover spirals down and Polar Amplification ramps up.


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