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Name: Robert
Status: Other
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
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I have a question about the artic is it fresh water and if it isn`t how does the extreme cold manage to freeze the salt water?


The water in the Arctic is salt water, just as the rest of the ocean is. However, the salt content may be less than the mid-Atlantic, for instance. The ice (built up from snowfall, as well as cold air temperatures) tends to dilute the salt content slightly as it slowly melts during warmer weather. Water with salt will freeze at a lower temperature than the freezing temperature (0 degrees C, 32 degrees F) of pure water. The Arctic Ocean temperature is therefore normally lower than 0 degrees C. Cold air temperatures during the greater part of the year keep a large area around the top of the world permanently frozen.

An interesting twist to this is that the Arctic ice has thinned significantly in the past 30 years, indicating that the temperature of the ocean water underneath it has increased slightly (on average). A monitoring station was put in place at the North Pole at the beginning of this year and will be maintained for at least 5 years to try to determine the cause of the thinning. Measurements from the most recent submarine mission under the ice cap (see the National Geographic web site to find an article on the mission) and a year-long experiment on the icepack called SHEBA (sponsored by the Dept. of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurements Program) should add to our understanding.

David Cook
Meteorologist at Argonne Nat. Lab.

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