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Ice cover is smaller and later in the Arctic this year

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jan5,2024

The ice cover is smallest and latest in the Arctic this year

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Everywhere in the Arctic, the ice cover has summer later, as in this photo taken in Pond Inlet, eastern Nunavut last December. (Archive photo)

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Canada's northern communities are facing abnormally late and smaller ice cover this season, mirroring rising temperatures across the country in 2023.

Johnny Oovaut was very surprised to be able to go out to sea with his boat on December 30 in Quaqtaq, Nunavik in Northern Quebec.

Never in his life had he seen the absence of ice floes at this time of the season in front of his village.

There is about 1 month behind usual ice conditions, estimates the Quaqtaq resident, who usually travels by snowmobile on the ice floe at this time of the year.

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Johnny Oovaut (right) was able to travel by boat on December 30, for the first time in his life on that date in due to the lack of ice.

There hasn't been much snow, and temperatures have been milder since the start of winter. […] This is clearly another consequence of climate change, says Johnny Oovaut.

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With precise satellite images, meteorologist Michèle Fleury of Environment Canada arrives at same observation.

Ice cover in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Ungava Bay is approximately 49%, well below normal seasonal, established at approximately 66% coverage.

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The ice is slow to form as solidly as in previous years. (File photo)

The western Arctic is no exception either, with an ice cover of 59%, so that normal is 74% at this time of year.

All of northern Canada was in a temperature anomaly in recent months, with temperatures significantly above normal, which delayed the formation of ice, explains Michèle Fleury.

It is, according to her, difficult to establish a single factor which could explain these warmer temperatures, but the phenomenon is nevertheless part of a trend linked to climate change.

This is an observation also made by the ice specialist at the American Space Agency (NASA), Angela Bliss.

With her colleagues from Cryosphere Laboratory, based in Maryland, studies the cycles of growth and retreat of Arctic ice.

Every year we see record temperatures in the Arctic and 2023 was no different. It was the hottest summer ever recorded in the region, explains the scientist, who was not surprised by the lower ice cover at this time of year.

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Angela Bliss is a scientist specializing in Arctic ice.

Sea ice has the ability to reflect energy from the sun's rays back into space rather than letting the ocean absorb it. This is called the feedback mechanism, which helps regulate the Earth's temperature.

Angela Bliss notes, however, that each year, the ice surface in the Arctic decreases, which limits the positive effects of this feedback mechanism.

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In just two decades, the Arctic has lost about a third of its winter sea ice volume. (File photo).

This warms the ocean and atmosphere, which limits the creation of ice the following year. […] The ice therefore has less chance of thickening and finds itself even more vulnerable, she adds.

According to her, this is a striking example of the consequences of climate change, which are likely to accelerate as the ice melts.

It is even possible that the Arctic will end up with summers without ice floes in the coming decades, which the scientist deplores.

This has a big impact on Arctic biodiversity, which depends on this ice to survive, she adds.

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NASA is able to analyze ice cover using satellite images. (Archive photo)

Faced with these warmer seasons and less ice, Quaqtaq resident Johnny Oovaut questions the future of certain ancestral Inuit practices.

For millennia, the Inuit have traveled the ice floes to hunt seals and other marine animals. He fears that one day it will be impossible for his descendants.

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Inuit communities in the North still partly feed themselves through hunting and the Peach. (Archive photo)

We can already see the effects. It becomes more difficult to move around the territory. There are episodes of fog and freezing rain that we never saw before. […] It touches the lives of everyone here, he explains.

Johnny Oovaut nevertheless has confidence in the great capacity adaptation of northern communities, which will be the first affected by the consequences of climate change.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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