For the last 10,000 years, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has been far from constant. For several thousand years, there was much less sea ice in The Arctic Ocean – probably less than half of current amounts. This is indicated by new findings by the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen. The results of the study will be published in the journalScience. Sea ice comes and goes without leaving a record. For this reason, our knowledge about its variations and extent was limited before we had satellite surveillance or observations from airplanes and ships. But now researchers at the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen) have developed a method by which it is possible to measure the variations in the ice several millennia back in time.
The results are based on material gathered along the coast of northern Greenland, which scientists expect will be the final place summer ice will survive, if global temperatures continue to rise.
This means that the results from northern Greenland also indicate what the conditions are like in the ocean.
Less ice than today
Team leader Svend Funder, and two other team members and co-authors of the Science article, Eske Willerslev and Kurt Kjær, are all associated with the Danish Research Foundation at the University of Copenhagen.
Regarding the research results, Funder says, "Our studies show that there have been large fluctuations in the amount of summer sea ice during the last 10,000 years. During the so-called Holocene Climate Optimum, from approximately 8000 to 5000 years ago, when the temperatures were somewhat warmer than today, there was significantly less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, probably less than 50% of the summer 2007 coverage, which was absolutely lowest on record. Our studies also show that when the ice disappears in one area, it may accumulate in another. We have discovered this by comparing our results with observations from northern Canada. While the amount of sea ice decreased in northern Greenland, it increased in Canada. This is probably due to changes in the prevailing wind systems. This factor has not been sufficiently taken into account when forecasting the imminent disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean."