North Pole Melts, Forms Lake at Top of the World [Video]

Two weeks of warm weather in the high Arctic have caused an aquamarine lake to begin forming since July 13, according to the North Pole Environmental Observatory’s camera.

The time-lapse video recently released by the North Pole Environmental Observatory, a research group funded by the National Science Foundation that has been monitoring the state of Arctic sea ice since 2000.

The shallow lake — it’s about a foot deep — isn’t the result of sea water overtaking the ice; it consists entirely of the melted ice itself.

“It’s a shallow lake. It’s a cold lake. But it is, actually, a lake,” writes William Wolfe-Wylie of Canada.com.

This type of melt isn’t so unusual during the summer season, however. July is usually the warmest month in the area, but temperatures were 1 to 3 degrees Celsius above average this year. The shallow lake you see at the pole is made of meltwater sitting on top of a layer of ice, according to the observatory.

The North Pole has not completely melted away; there is still a layer of ice between the lake and the Arctic Ocean underneath. But that layer is thinning, and the newly formed lake is continuing to deepen.

The ice is expected to be further fractured by an Arctic cyclone, which is currently developing over the area.  The weather system will strengthen winds to anywhere from 75-100 km/h.

This storm may not be as strong as the one last summer that destroyed 800,000 square kilometres of ice. But this year’s ice is weaker and thinner than last year’s and has already been battered by previous cyclones.

Arctic sea ice has become a noticeable victim of climate change. The area of ice cover expands and contracts every year with the change in seasons, but last summer’s minimum extent was the lowest on record and this year’s maximum winter coverage was the sixth-lowest since satellite observations began in the 1970s.

But experts are divided over what the recent data will mean for the future sea-levels.

“I have seen much more extensive ponding,” James Morison, the principal investigator for the North Pole Environmental Observatory told The Atlantic Wire. “Because we use wide angle lenses the melt pond looks much bigger than it is.”

Morison also pointed out that a camera 100 meters away showed the ice looking relatively intact. He added that the scale of these images is also quite small.

The melting ice caps follow a trend of continually rising temperatures across the globe, and the Northern hemisphere has been particularly affected. Things looked to be slightly reversed this year after an April snow cover that was the 9th highest on record, but May’s snow cover ranked the third lowest (dating to 1967), according to The Washington Post, melting almost half of that snow.

As the USA Today says, Arctic warming could end up costing the world an extra $60 trillion, researchers say. Compare that to the size of the global economy in 2012: $70 trillion.

That’s because the methane gas emitted as the permafrost under the East Siberian Sea thaws could quicken the effects of climate change, adding to the costs heaped upon the world by global warming, According to the recent estimates there’s far more methane in the region than just what sits under that particular sea.

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