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30 Oct 2009: Thick, Multi-Year Arctic Ice
Has Effectively Disappeared, Scientist Says

One of Canada’s top Arctic experts, recently returned from an expedition in the far north, has told the Canadian parliament that the Arctic’s thick, multi-year sea ice has largely vanished, removing the last barrier to ships navigating the polar region. David Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said his expedition aboard an icebreaker was looking for a huge pack of thick ice that has existed for tens of thousands of years in the Beaufort Sea. But that multi-year ice, often dozens of feet thick, has largely been replaced by one-year-old “rotten” ice less than 20 inches thick, which is not an impediment to navigation. “We are almost out of multi-year ice in the northern hemisphere,” Barber told Parliament. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic... From a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now.” Barber’s icebreaker did find a 10-mile-wide floe of multi-year ice that was 20 to 26 feet thick, but he said the expedition watched as those floes began breaking apart after being hit large waves. In 2007, the extent of Arctic sea ice, most of it thin, was 40 percent below the long-term average.

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