Freshwater Flux

These satellite images show the effects of a sudden influx of warm freshwater on sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. On the left are natural color satellite images of Canada’s Mackenzie River delta where it enters the Beaufort Sea. On the right are temperature maps of the ice and water surface temperatures for the same regions. In June 2012, the coastal sea ice that had been blocking the river’s delta broke, releasing a massive discharge of river water. The natural color images show brown and tan sediment reaching far out from the river delta, but the temperature maps on the right are even more dramatic. Warmer river water has spread many hundreds of kilometers from the delta, melting sea ice and raising the open water surface temperatures by an average of 6.5 degrees Celsius. The effects of river discharge on sea ice melt are increasing as inland Arctic areas warm more in the summers and the sea ice becomes thinner and more vulnerable each year. (Image credits: NASA Earth Observatory)

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