15 million years old ice cover about to disappear

In 20 years, central parts of the Arctic Ocean might be ice-free for the first time in 14-15 million years.

Catherine Stickley

Dr. Catherine E. Stickley from the University of Tromsø.


The history of sea ice in the Arctic is poorly known, but scientists are certain that it has not always been around. Photo: S. Gerland / Norwegian Polar Institute

Nalan Koc

Prof.Nalân Koç, Norwegian Polar Institute. Photo: Norsk Polarinstitutt

- Our research confirms how dramatic the current climate change is, says Prof. Nalân Koç at the Norwegian Polar Institute. She heads an international research project that recently published their findings in the acknowledged journal Nature − results that confirm that the formation of sea ice started in the Arctic Ocean already 47 million years ago.

The scientists have found fossil sea ice algae at 260 m depth below the sea bed. The siliceous algae, together with sand particles transported by the historical ice, tell scientists the story of the early formation of sea ice in the Arctic.

The results show that the sea ice in the Arctic has a longer history than the ice in Antarctica.

The authors of the Nature paper are Catherine E. Stickley, Kristen St. John, Nalân Koc, Richard W. Jordan, Sandra Passchier, Richard B. Pearce and Lance E. Kearns.