A research vessel travels through the Arctic Ocean in October 2015.

Surprising loss of sea ice after record-breaking Arctic storm is a mystery to scientists

Early in 2022, the Arctic experienced its strongest cyclone on record, with wind speeds reaching 62 mph (100 km/h). Although storms aren’t rare in the Arctic, this one led to an extensive loss of sea ice that surprised Arctic researchers.

In the Arctic, sea ice — frozen seawater that floats over the ocean in the polar regions — reaches its largest coverage in March and what is thought to be its thickest maximum in April, researchers told Live Science. But as sea ice was building up this year, it hit a major setback. Between Jan. 20 and Jan. 28, the storm developed over Greenland and traveled northeast into the Barents Sea, where massive waves reached 26 feet (8 meters) high. Like a wild bronco, those waves bucked sea ​​ice at the edge of an icy pack 6 feet (2 m) up and down, while even larger waves swept 60 miles (100 km) toward the center of the pack. Although weather models accurately predicted the evolution of the storm, sea ice models did not predict just how much the storm would affect ice thickness.

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