Ice-free Arctic

I was watching CNN today (not something I normally do; I was standing in a line at the post office) and the story was about record melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The prediction was that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer within five years.

And I was reading News today (which is something I normally do). There was a link to the Geological Survey of Norway, with an article by Gudmund Løvø entitled Less ice in the Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 years ago.

Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.

The scientists studied ancient beaches along the northern coast of Greenland. Two distinct types of beaches were studied. Beaches formed when pack-ice is present tend to have an irregular character, formed when ridges of ice are pressed against the sandy shoreline. Beaches formed where there is open water, on the other hand, tend to be long and linear, formed as linear waves break along a long stretch of the shore. Shorelines from 6000-7000 years ago are of the linear type, suggesting that there was open water for a considerable distance northward from Greenland, perhaps even to the North Pole.

I’m not a global warming denier, which bothers some of my friends. I do believe that human activities are affecting Earth’s climate. This does point out, however, the importance of geological studies of Quaternary (ice age to present) climate systems. Whatever is happening today, even if caused by humans, can only be fully understood in its geological context.

Grace and Peace

One thought on “Ice-free Arctic

  1. Matt Strid

    I find it interesting that scientists take so little outside of thier field into view when they study phenomena like Ice Melt.

    If they would go to other disciplines, such as history, they would find that a “Little Ice Age” is well attested (although not with scientific precision) from around the 16th century to the middle 19th century, with lows in the mid-17th and mid-18th centuries. The increasing ice-flow caused the abandonment of Norse settlements that were established during a somewhat well attested warming trend which extended from the 10th centruy to the 14th century.

    You dont have to go back 3000 years to find habitable territory in Greenland in areas currently not considered habitable. Just 500 years will do it. I guess I want to see more data, not Just a few decades from which we extrapolate catastrophic changes.


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