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Heat from Arctic rivers melting sea ice

Date: 07 December 2020 Tags: Climate Change


A new study shows that increased heat from Arctic rivers is melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and warming the atmosphere.



Arctic sea ice melt is a serious issue, which has to be rectified as early as possible to prevent irreversible changes to global temperatures.



  • According to the research, major Arctic rivers contribute significantly more heat to the Arctic Ocean than they did in 1980.

  • River heat is responsible for up to 10% of the total sea ice loss that occurred from 1980 to 2015 over the shelf region of the Arctic Ocean.

  • Rivers have the greatest impact during spring break up. The warming water dumps into the ice-covered Arctic Ocean and spreads below the ice, decaying it. Once the sea ice melts, the warm water begins heating the atmosphere.

  • The impacts were most pronounced in the Siberian Arctic, where several large rivers flow onto the relatively shallow shelf region.

  • Rising global air temperatures will continue to warm Arctic rivers in the future. As rivers heat up, more heat will flow into the Arctic Ocean, melting more sea ice and accelerating Arctic warming.


Sea ice

  • Arctic Sea ice maintains the cool temperature of the Polar Regions and it has an important albedo effect on the climate.

  • Arctic Sea ice melts in the summer, and more of the sun is being absorbed by the ocean. The fast rate of the sea ice melting is resulting in the oceans absorbing and heating up the Arctic.

  • The decline in sea ice does have the potential to speed up global warming and climate change. 

  • The Arctic is known as the world's refrigerator. If the Arctic continues to melt due to climate change, the sea levels will rise causing the ocean to cover coastal cities.