Researchers Use Floating Ice Disk to Study Arctic Sea Ice

Climate researcher Chris Horvat is working to understand how sea ice move, melt and interact

A couple weeks ago, a huge floating ice disk was spotted in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine. The formation was widely shared on social media, drawing comparisons to an alien spacecraft, a carousel, and the moon. It also caught the attention of a furloughed government researcher.

Research is being done on Arctic sea ice 1,700 miles away from the Arctic Ocean. That research is being done right here in New England.

“What we work on is trying to understand how individual pieces of the sea ice change and move and melt and grow and interact with each other,” said climate researcher Chris Horvat.

Sea ice research isn’t cheap, so the local ice disk presented a unique opportunity. Horvat works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but is pursuing his postdoctoral at Brown University.

“When I saw this big circular piece of ice, in a river, close to a parking garage it was a good opportunity to start taking some of those photos and use some of those techniques we are going to apply to the sea ice,” said Horvat.

So far, the data is proving to be invaluable. Climate change is leading to record melting of sea ice. It is forecast that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during the summer by 2030 or 2040.

“For every degree of warming that the rest of the world feels the arctic warms 3 or 4 times faster,” said Horvat. “It’s the most rapidly changing environment and the effects of a warming Arctic are going to be felt later on in the latitudes that we live in.”

Click here for more information on Horvat’s research or to check in on the ice disk.

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