16-foot Waves Measured in Arctic Ocean Where There Was Once Only Ice
Reduced sea ice allowed the buildup of huge waves in the Beaufort Sea.
Sixteen-foot waves are buffeting an area of the Arctic Ocean that until recently was permanently covered in sea ice—another sign of a warming climate, scientists say.
Because wave action breaks up sea ice, allowing more sunlight to warm the ocean, it can trigger a cycle that leads to even less ice, more wind, and higher waves. (See "Shrinking Arctic Ice Prompts Drastic Change in National Geographic Atlas.")
Scientists had never measured waves in the Beaufort Sea, an area north of Alaska, until recently. Permanent sea ice cover prevented their formation. But much of the region is now ice-free by September, and researchers were able to anchor a sensor to measure wave heights in the central Beaufort Sea in 2012.
"It is possible