Lowest Latitude Sea Ice South of the Arctic

Caitlin Dempsey

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Most sea ice located in the northern Hemisphere can be found within the Arctic. The polar cap that surrounds the North Pole is made up of floating ice pack over the Arctic Ocean.

While most of the northern Hemisphere’s sea ice can be found in the Arctic region, sea ice does form south of the Arctic Circle.

One of the lowest latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere where sea ice forms in the Northern Hemisphere is the Sea of Okhotsk which stretches from Russia to the North to Japan’s island of Hokkaido to the south. Here, seasonal sea ice can be found down to 44° North latitude.

Cold westerly winds flowing in from eastern Siberia are partly responsible for the presence of ice in these waters. Freshwater flowing into the sea from rivers such as the Amur also help to raise the temperature at which sea ice can form.

Saline waters freeze at a lower temperature than freshwater: -1.8 degrees Celsius (28.8 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit) for freshwater).

Drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk.   Image: Landsat 8, NASA.
Drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk. Image: Landsat 8, NASA.

This  Landsat 8 satellite image shows sea ice in the Sea of Okhotsk on March 12, 2020. As sea ice forms north of the Russian Island of  Sakhalin, the  Sakhalin Current brings the sea ice further south while northwest and westerly winds push the ice southeast and east.

The port town of Abashiri on the northeastern coast of Hokkaido, Japan, celebrates its arrival each year. The Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival is held each year. Related: Japan’s Snow Country

Drift ice, which is sea ice that moves along with ocean currents and winds, is known as Ryuhyo in Japanese. Drift ice starts arrive in Abashiri starting around mid-January to early February each year.

Reference

Hansen, K. (2020, March 19). Drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146451/drift-ice-in-the-sea-of-okhotsk

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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