As the ice melts and breaks up, it makes it difficult for polar bears to find each other for mating as they need solid ice to trace each other's spoor, and to hunt seals for their survival. Seals in turn need ice to give birth. Less ice cover also means new species like Orca are making their way into previously blocked areas with unknown consequences to species established there.

As the ice melts and breaks up, it makes it difficult for polar bears to find each other for mating as they need solid ice to trace each other's spoor, and to hunt seals for their survival. Seals in turn need ice to give birth. Less ice cover also means new species like Orca are making their way into previously blocked areas with unknown consequences to species established there.
Photo Credit: Vicki Sahanatien

The Last Ice Area in the Arctic

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Where once the Arctic was an almost eternally frozen region, global warming has created vast changes.

Scientists now estimate that in just a couple of decades, the area permanently covered by ice all year, will be dramatically reduced to a tiny fraction of what it once was.

World Wildlife Fund-Canada and National Geographic have teamed up to document what is now being dubbed, “The Last Ice Area”

David Miller is president and CEO of WWF Canada.

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David Miller is president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund-Canada
David Miller is president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund-Canada © WWF-youtube

WWF-Canada has long been working on a variety of environmental and related projects in the Canadian Arctic. Now they’ve teamed with National Geographic in documenting an area at the top of the world which is likely to become the last permanently ice covered region.

It’s expected that in less than a generation, summer ice may be limited to merely the fringes of the highest Arctic islands and edge of Greenland.

The purpose of the WWF-Canada and National Geographic collobation is to record what exists now and also to bring global attention to this important environmental situation.

National Geographic is documenting the situation as part of its “Pristine Seas” project

Graphic image shows only small patches of permanent ice will remain during summer months in the Arctic within merely a generation; The Last Ice Area
Graphic image shows only small patches of permanent ice will likely remain during summer months in the Arctic within merely a generation; The Last Ice Area © WWF

Miller points out that the ice-cover is critical for a number of reasons. The ice reflects sunlight and as it disappears, more heat is absorbed by the sea and air, melting more ice in a feedback effect.

Walrus resting on ice in Lancaster Sound. Ice is needed for these animals to relax, seek refuge, and mating
Walrus resting on ice in Lancaster Sound. Ice is needed for these animals to relax, seek refuge, and mating © Wayne Lynch-Parks Canada

Ice cover is also vital to a number of both land and marine mammals and other sea-based life, including beluga and other whales, narwhal, polar bears, seals, walrus, and many others including the microscopic creatures at the very bottom of the food chain living under the ice itself at the shelf edge.

Additionally the permanent ice is critical for the Inuit economically, for sustenance, and culturally.

Miller notes that the fact that a century and half ago, much of the Arctic remained locked in ice year-round, and in the near future only a fringe area in all of the circumpolar region will have ice in summer.

This is evidence he says of the vast changes occurring in the north as a result of global warming, and he hopes such initiatives will help spur action, on national and international scales, to mitigate the effects and preserve as much as possible of what now exists.

WWF-Canada video on “last ice” (YouTube)

WWF-Canada- tagging Narwhal (YouTube)

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6 comments on “The Last Ice Area in the Arctic
  1. Avatar Paul Ruzycki says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. I am currently off the North East coast of Greenland working with Greenpeace International as Ice Navigator on board their Icebreaker “Arctic Sunrise”. We are here to highlight the issue of seismic testing off the North East coast of Greenland, in the pursuit of yet more oil….
    I have been to the Arctic over 12 times since 1997. I can say first hand that I have seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of summer sea ice.

    Keep up the great work & keep the public informed!
    Best Regards, Paul

  2. Avatar Richard Moseley says:

    In 1979, Arctic Extent lost 58.19% of its maximum winter size. With three weeks to go before Extent Minimum 2015 has lost 64.79%, better than 2012 (73.17%), 2011 (66.41%), 2008 (64.99%) and 2007 (67.21%). Large-scale change defines how Arctic behaviour works (2012-13 growth was 447.80%), so none of the panic this piece is intending to generate has any place in Arctic discussions. How do I back up my statistics? By typing in all 11,000 @NSIDC Arctic Extent figures into a spreadsheet and making it available here : http://1drv.ms/1TlRaFH (TAB ‘1979 2015’). Measured, not modelled.

    • Marc Montgomery Marc Montgomery says:

      Hello Richard
      I’m not a scientist, but the multitude of scientists I have spoken to and actual data have all without exception indicated an ongoing decline in ice. Mere extent also does not tell the whole picture as ice volume is diminishing, thus although for example an ice extent may be the same, actual ice volume is being lost.
      Additionally as ice melts, the water becomes less saline and therefore allows the surface to freeze more easily creating the illusion of ice extent. From all scientific reports and interviews I have seen and conducted, ice loss in the Arctic, Greenland sheet, and Antarctic, along with glaciers around the world, is dramatic and serious.

    • Avatar Leslie Graham says:

      You are simply wrong.
      This years extent is already tracking below every other year apart from the extreme melt year of 2012.
      Your claim about an ‘increase’ in 2013 is just ridiculous. Of course there was an ‘increase’ from 2012. How could there possibly NOT be from an all time record low? So what?
      It’s irrelevent now anyway as this extent ‘increase’ has long since melted again and the trend is clear. It is rapidly downward. And I suspect you know it.
      The volume is a more usefull indicator anyway – the extent is meaningless if it is only a few inches thick when it used to be up to 28 feet thick!
      And if you are not ‘alarmed’ by the rapid and totaly obvious changes to our climate that are occuring all over the planet then you a fool.

  3. Avatar Betty Gleason says:

    While I appreciate your article it doesn’t address the more critical issue of the frozen methane under the arctic sea ice. As the ice melts the permafrost melts and so does the frozen methane under the ice. I understand there are kilometer wide plumes of methane bubbling up now. I quote Jason Box Greenland science expert who states if any of the arctic carbon is released, methane, we’re f’d. Pls go to Arctic Methane Emergency Group website. They tell it like it is
    Thank you

    • Marc Montgomery Marc Montgomery says:

      Hello Betty
      In several previous articles following interviews with various scientists, the issue of release of frozen methane and permafrost melt has come up. You are correct in that they are both a serious concern as methane is a major greenhouse gas; apparently one molecule of methane is equivalent to 20 molecules of CO2. However this article was not about that issue and that is why it, and permafrost melt, were not mentioned.
      cheers
      Marc