Phenomena

Cracks in Sea Ice

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Arctic sea ice often appears as a single extensive sheet when, in reality, it is made up of many smaller sections of ice shifting and grinding against one another under the influence of winds and ocean currents. This can cause cracks–known as leads–to open up between sections of the ice. This animation, constructed from infrared satellite images, shows the growth of several cracks, leading to extensive break-up of the ice sheet from late-January through March. The fracturing was driven by a high-pressure system that parked over the region, bringing warmer temperatures and southwesterly winds that fueled the Beaufort Gyre, a large-scale, wind-driven, clockwise circulation in the sea that helped pull the ice apart. For more, see NASA EO’s explanation. (Video credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

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