ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Incredible Sea Ice - Lots of Photographs

Updated on June 19, 2012

Sea ice forms when sea water is supercooled and the top layer of the ocean begins to freeze up. Unlike a glacier or an ice berg which are made up of all fresh water from the start, sea ice is formed from salty sea water that freezes. However, during the process of forming into ice crystals, sea ice looses its salinity and eventually becomes fresh as well.

Because of the salt content of the ocean, sea ice forms when the ocean is below normal freezing temperatures of 0 degree C (32 degrees F). It takes temperatures that are -1.8 degree C (28.8 degree F) for salt water to freeze.

Land-Fast Ice:

Land fast ice is ice that is connected to the shore line and does not move around with the currents and wind. The outside edges of the ice will eventually break off and become pancake ice or drift ice.

image by NASA
image by NASA
image by NASA Observatory
image by NASA Observatory

Drift Ice:

image by Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard
image by Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard | Source

In calm water, sea ice starts out as a skim of small crystals on the surface of the water. As these crystals begin to grow outward, they become fragile and any waves, wind or turbulance can break them into smaller pieces creating a slush layer on the surface of the ocean. This layer is also known as frazil or grease ice. Once the weather becomes calm enough again the slush will form into a solid sheet of clear ice 1-5 cm thick. Once this stage is complete, the process of growth changes. Now instead of surface water freezing, it is the water underneath the ice that starts to freeze in a process called congelation growth.

The water directly under the ice is begin cooled by the ice and eventually becomes cold enough to congeal on to the existing sheet and the process continues. In a single season this ice can reach thicknesses of 1.5 to 2 m thick.

In rough water the waves and wind are primarily responsible for wicking heat away from the top layer of the ocean. This again turns into a slushy mixture that is mixed up and smashed toegether by waves and eventually condenses into a sheet of ice. It can form into small discs of ice called pancake ice. Pieces of pancake ice roam around the ocean and smash into each other giving them slightly upturned edges. Eventually all the pancake ice will either freeze together or get washed over with freezing water and become encased.

Sea ice freezes and melts due to a combination of factors, including the age of the ice, air temperatures, and solar insolation. In the Arctic Ocean the sea ice reaches a peak around March and is at its lowest in the month of September.

Pancake Ice:

Pancake ice is similar to drift ice but it has formed into small pancake looking pieces. It gets its characteristic upturned egdes from colliding with other pieces of ice. If the weather is bad enough, several pieces can become swamped with water and encased into one larger sheet of ice.

by Ralf Lotys
by Ralf Lotys | Source
image by Hans Kylberg
image by Hans Kylberg | Source
image by Brocken Inaglory
image by Brocken Inaglory
image by NASA
image by NASA

Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice:

These "polar packs" aslo known as arctic sea ice and antarctic sea ice are seasonal and their size depends greatly on atmospheric conditions. They are usually slow moving and are formed when large chunks of ice come together and from into bigger pieces. A collection of sea ice that is smaller than 10km (6 miles) at its greatest dimension is called an ice floe. Anything bigger than that is called an ice field.

image by Nipponia Nippon
image by Nipponia Nippon
image by Nipponia Nippon
image by Nipponia Nippon
image by Brocken Inaglory
image by Brocken Inaglory
image Brocken Inaglory
image Brocken Inaglory

The importance of Sea Ice

Even though sea ice covers only a small portion of our globe, it is very important for the worlds climate. Because ice is very reflective of sunlight, areas of the land and water covered by ice don't absorb much solar energy. Most of the light that lands on them is reflected back out into space keeping the temperature of the water and surrounding environment down. Changing temperatures can wreak havoc on the melting and freezing cycles of the ice cause. It will always form in the heart of the polar winters when there is little to no daylight at the poles but will start to melt much faster and be not as effective at re-directing radiation when the sun comes back out.

Sea ice is also crucial in the movement of the oceans water through convection. When the ice crystals form, most of the salt is removed from the ice and it joins the water directly below it making that water highly concentrated with salt. The average salinity of the ocean in 3.5 percent but that can be pushed up to 4-5% in places with a lot of congelation freezing. This saltier water is much denser than the surrounding water and it sinks to the ocean floor causing upwellings of colder, nutrient rich water from the ocean bottom. The dense cold water will then begin to warm up and travel towards the equator pushing water from the equator around in a big cycle back towards the poles.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)