08/12/2012 12:37 EDT | Updated 10/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Massive Cyclone Blows Over Central Arctic Ocean

Flickr: NASA Goddard Photo and Video
A massive cyclone blew over the central Arctic Ocean this past week, north of the Beaufort Sea, and some Arctic researchers said they have never seen anything like it.

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, said cyclones are common at this time of year, but he said this week's storm was stronger than any he's seen.

Serreze said he believes the cyclone is causing Arctic sea ice to melt faster this year.

"It causes a lot of break-up of the ice floes. These can drift into warmer waters where the ice can then melt very quickly, and it looks like we're seeing some of that now, or we have, over the past week with the storm. So the point is, in terms of the sea-ice cover, it does have a big effect because with the strong winds and a big storm like that, it really chews things up," said Serreze.

He said it’s likely the Arctic sea ice cover will hit a new record low this year, thanks in part to the cyclone. Serreze added that about 600,000 square kilometres of sea ice was lost in the central Arctic in the last week.

Serreze said the Northwest Passage had been clear of ice, but now pieces have blown in to block the western entrance.

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Arctic Cyclone, August 2012