Normally, the 'birthplace of ice' freezes by late October. For the first time in recorded history, it hasn't. That could have knock-on effects across the Arctic.
For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October.
The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region.
Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5 C above average, following a record breaking heat wave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice.
The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year, when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day.
Graphs of sea-ice extent in the Laptev Sea, which usually show a healthy seasonal pulse, appear to have flatlined. As a result, there is a record amount of open sea in the Arctic.
“The lack of freeze-up so far this fall is unprecedented in the Siberian Arctic region,” said Zachary Labe, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University. He says this is in line with the expected impact of human-driven climate change.