Since the 70s there have been theories that the Arctic Ocean was covered by a kilometer thick layer of ice during glacial periods. Now Swedish, Russian and American scientists for the first time have been able to show that the hypothesis was correct.
The discovery provides, among other things, an insight into the stability of floating glacier ice of the type currently mainly found around the Antarctica.
- Our work shows that we have had a huge so-called ice shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in the area around the North Pole, for about 140,000 years ago. It disappeared probably rather quickly and the disappearance was likely an important part of getting full deglaciation started, says Martin Jakobsson, Professor in Geological Science at Stockholm University, in a press release.
During the international expedition in 2014, the researcher at Stockholm University, in collaboration with researchers in Gothenburg, the US and Russia, could use the icebreaker Oden's advanced sonar to see see tracks of the Ice Age's large ice shelfs on the seabed in the central Arctic Ocean.
The findings, published in the scientific journal Nature, shows that the Arctic sea's ice shelfs have been so large that they surpass those found around the Antarctic today, which confirms the purely theoretical hypothesis presented in the 70s.
The ice was about one kilometer thick, and when it passed over, including the Lomonosov Ridge, valleys in the seabed were made, leaving deep and up to several hundred meters wide tracks where the enormous ice shelfs had dragged over the seabed.
- We can learn a lot from the tracks of these large ice shelfs, which had a stabilizing effect on land ice they connected to. Both Greenland and Antarctic have lost much of the surface ice shelfs in recent decades. The tracks provides knowledge of how fast the ice age's ice shelfs broke up and how it affected adjacent land ice, which can provide important information on how the West Antarctic ice and glacier offshoot from Greenland will be affected if the ice shelfs break up, says Martin Jakobsson.
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