Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Global warming is apparently making it so difficult to break through thickening Baltic Ice, the Baltic Icebreaker fleet may have to be upgraded.
More Powerful Icebreakers Needed in Baltic Sea Despite Global Warming
Oddly enough, global warming and milder winters have led to more severe ice conditions in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. Today, icebreakers are already struggling to get through towering compacted ice and the problem may become exacerbated in the future, unless more powerful icebreaking vessels step in.
As surprising as it may sound, milder winters don’t make life easier for icebreakers. On the contrary, thaws alternating with bouts of frost are a nightmare for icebreaker fleets, Finnish experts found. During winters with a regular cold, solid ice grows to become 50-60 centimeters thick and is easy to get through. Although milder winter temperatures at first glance make ice thinner, it also leads to the formation of an ice crust, which, with the aid of harsh winds, grows to several meters of pack ice.
According to ice researcher Patrik Eriksson of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Baltic ice may become 5-6 meters thick, and this phenomenon has become particularly common over the past decades of milder winters. Eriksson noted that short cold spells combined with western winds lead to ice floes clogging to pack ice, which is a bigger problem for Finland due to the wind pattern.
Just as well we’re not experiencing global cooling, otherwise all the icebreaker construction workers would go out of business.