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First Observations of a Polynya in the Last Ice Area North of Ellesmere Island
  • G. W. K. Moore,
  • Stephen Howell,
  • Michael Brady
G. W. K. Moore
University of Toronto

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Stephen Howell
Environment and Climate Change Canada
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Michael Brady
Environment Canada
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The area to the north of Ellesmere Island and Greenland contains the Arctic's thickest ice and it is predicted to be the last to lose its perennial ice, thus providing an important refuge for ice-dependent species. There is however evidence that this Last Ice Area is, like the entire Arctic, undergoing rapid changes that may reduce its suitability as a refuge. During May 2020, a polynya developed to the north of Ellesmere Island in a region where there are no reports of a previous development during May. We use a variety of remotely sensed data as well as atmospheric models to document the evolution and the dynamics responsible for the polynya. In particular, we argue that anomalously strong divergent winds associated with an intense and long-lived Arctic anti-cyclone contributed to the development of the polynya as well as a similar previously unreported event in May 2004.