Spring ice breakup in the Amundsen Gulf • Earth.com

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Amundsen Gulf in northern Canada, where ice is typically covered with ice that is fastened to surrounding coastlines. According to NASA, the breakup of this ice tends to be rapid when the melting season arrives in spring.

“Patches of fast ice remained in the eastern part of the gulf in late May, but summer weather will ultimately clear it away as well. The Amundsen Gulf, the western entrance to the Northwest Passage, is usually ice-free by August,” says NASA.

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said that winds play an important role in the breakup of the ice. He noted that an area of low pressure centered south of the gulf prior to the breakup fueled strong easterly winds and large waves that broke up the ice and sent chunks of it drifting west. 

This year’s spring breakup occurred earlier than usual, which aligns with the overall trend in the Beaufort Sea region in recent decades, noted NASA.

“Over a period of two decades, the Amundsen Gulf had the highest interannual variability of anywhere across the entire Northwest Canadian Arctic,” said Eleanor Wratten, a researcher at Northumbria University and the lead author of an analysis of decades of MODIS observations of fast ice in the Northwest Canadian Arctic. 

“We saw the timing of breakup change considerably from one year to the next, but the general pattern looked similar to what you see here. Ice usually remains in the southern bays the longest, with breakup veering toward the strait in the southeastern portion of the gulf.”

The image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on May 30, 2023.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 


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