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As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water which is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell – huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region. A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.
"As the Arctic is melting, it’s a pretty simple prediction that the additional open water should make waves," said lead author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.