How old is the North pole?
2010-09-05 16:30:24 UTC
How old is the oldest piece of ice at the poles, ie how long ago did it freeze and how long has it been since the North pole was ice free.
Fourteen answers:
2010-09-05 18:36:25 UTC
Interesting question and as you can see from earlier answers, your question is open to a degree of interpretation.

As Ralph has mentioned, the ice at the North Pole is mobile, it moves in response to oceanic and atmospheric conditions. Earlier this year for example, there was an unusual Arctic dipole anomaly that resulted in the negation of the normal Arctic Oscillation and instigated opposing cyclonic conditions that caused widespread dissipation of the ice-mass.

If you look at the plot for Arctic sea-ice extent you can see an obvious change in the slope of the graph occurring on 29th - 30th June, the time when the anomaly started.

Because of this mobility, even the multiyear ice isn’t that old. There are different electromagnetic properties between new and multiyear ice and this enables remote sensing satellites to track both types of ice. I don’t think anyone could say just how old the oldest piece of ice is but the figure of 10 years cited by Ralph seems a reasonable average age.

At the precise point of the North Pole* the oldest piece of ice has to be less than 38 months old as the North Pole itself was ice free in July 2007, it may have been ice free since then, I’m not sure.

If your question is approached in the way Bravozulu has, and you’re looking to establish when the Arctic was last free of ice then the answer is that it was more than 700,000 years ago. There is nothing in any scientific research, reconstruction or paleoclimatic evidence to suggest the Arctic has been completely ice free at any point in this time.

It was probably ice free some 4 million years ago, it may be more recent than that. It was almost certainly ice-free between 15 and 25 million years ago, the same time at which the Antarctic was comparatively ice free (last completely ice free about 50 mya).

* There isn’t actually a precise point for the magnetic north pole as it constantly moves. Each day it goes on an 80km journey, roughly in a loop but never quite returning to the same point it started from, hence there is a 40km drift each year and thus it’s necessary to allow for magnetic declination when taking accurate compass or cartographic readings.

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Typically the flat parts of the Arctic ice are just a few feet thick with multiyear ice being up to about 9 feet. New ice is 1 to 3 feet thick but can often be just a few inches. Where the ice buckles and ridges form it can be up to about 15 feet thick.

Think of your stereotypical Eskimo drilling through the ice to catch some fish, that’s what the Arctic sea-ice is like.

Unlike Antarctica and Greenland, the Arctic ice isn’t land based. This means it forms as a thin frozen layer of sea-water and is eroded from both above and below.

It’s this vulnerability that allows for rapid melting of the ice in summer and refreezing in winter. In the past the maximum winter sea-ice extent was about 15 million km², in recent years this has receded to about 14 million km². During the summer months the ice rapidly melts, it used to retreat to about 11 million km² but in recent years it’s been down to about 6 million km².

At it’s annual peak, the Arctic ice expands to cover an area the same size as Antarctica and forms a frozen mass between Canada, Greenland and Russia.

We’re very close to the time of year when minimum sea-ice extent is reached (probably in about 11 days time) and at the moment there’s just under 5.2 million km² of ice in the Arctic. This recent decline in ice extent has opened up new shipping routes enabling vessels to sail around the north of Canada and the north of Russia.

Yesterday the MV Nordic Barents, a bulk carrier, set off to sail from Norway to China via the north of Russia, in doing so it will become the first commercial non Russian vessel to have made the passage.

The ice that is “thousands of feet thick” that you refer to, would have to be based on land. There are only two places where ice of this thickness exists (other than some mountain glaciers) and that’s Greenland and Antarctica.

In Greenland the ice cap has a maximum depth of 3,207 metres (10,519 feet) and the oldest ice here is about 100,000 years old. That’s not to say there was no ice 100,000 years ago. The Greenlandic ice is effectively one giant glacier, slowly creeping towards the surrounding seas and oceans.

As the snow falls it compresses under the effects of gravity and beneath overlying snow deposits, compressed enough it becomes ice and starts it’s long journey to the sea. There’s a constant cycle of ice calving into the sea and being replaced by new formations of ice.

The same thing happens in Antarctica but being much larger and generally at a lesser incline than Greenland, the ice takes a lot longer to flow to the sea. The oldest ice here is about 1 million years old, the oldest so far extracted from cores is 850,000 years old. The maximum thickness of Antarctic ice is 4,776 metres (15,670 feet).
2010-09-05 19:43:07 UTC
hey guys I need to point out that the north pole is not a stripped poll with chilly willie running around it. There is no solid land mass there and the sea ice is in constant motion.

that said the ice at the north pole is a different age at any different moment. sea ice is relatively young because as it moves some melts seasonally, only to be added to next season. then some melts and more freezes. it is conceivable that there is a small bit of ice that is hundreds of thousands of years old. but it won't pass over the pole until next Tuesday.

No it is not thousands of feet thick. the thick ice is found in glaciated portions of Greenland and such. here the ice can be a mile deep and date back 200k+ years. yes that is easily before the medieval warm period. Heck I think that's older than Lucy ( the earliest human predecessor)The safety and security of being on land protected it from moving into areas where would have otherwise melted like sea ice. it is this movement that keeps the sea ice relatively thin.

sadly it is vanishing faster each year

and there has never been a time in the history of man that there was no ice cap. Antartica has also, been frozen longer than Greenland's

Ecuador Pete, how can you mention thermodynamics and Jesus in the same paragraph.

tom it is generally accepted that the ice age was not the cause of the dinosaurs death

Trev nailed it
2016-04-21 00:15:35 UTC
They send it. This will probably sound silly but most people don't know there is a North Pole Alaska. The letters go there and they give them to the santa clause house. They put them up on the wall. And its really cool, around Christmas time in english class you get to write back to some of the kids, pretty much just let them know santa got their letter and keep hope alive. Not aloud to promise anything. Said it sounded silly but it's true :)
2010-09-05 17:20:59 UTC
The Arctic last completely melted about 800,000 years ago. I am sure that it wasn't completely free of ice but the major glaciers were minimal and there is no trace. It was a warm time that saw the expansion of what was probably our ancestor to most of the world. They apparently split into at least three different populations over the next several hundred thousand years. All modern humans are of the African branch that were in Africa until about 60,000 years ago. That is how I remember it.

It was much longer ago that that happened in Antarctica. I think it was a couple million years ago at least. It was probably much longer.
Ralph 124c41
2010-09-05 17:00:02 UTC
The North Pole is covered by sea water, so the sea ice covering the Arctic is quite mobile. The ice pack is less than 10 years old.

The ice pack in Antarctica is significantly older. The Vostok ice core (taken in 1999) dates back to 420,000 years. It is not clear that this is the oldest ice in Antarctica, just the oldest found so far.
2010-09-05 16:36:09 UTC
Wow! Good question. I don't know - how about looking it up on-line or in books? So, kind of DIY?

This is the kind of question I wanted answered when I was a kid; so I went to the library and read up about it. (Very old-fashioned, huh?)

(The answer is about 2.7 million years - or so some scientists think).

Ecuador Pete needs to read more than the Bible.
2010-09-07 02:25:32 UTC
Un logical question? we can only estimate and guess of the age of the entire planet. If we had an exact formula as to the start and finish of the ice age and the actual beginning of our semi solid earth we would have al the answers, but no one knows and no one has any current formula to accurately date and time the polar caps. No one, its all guesses and imagination.
2010-09-05 16:40:17 UTC
That's a great question, Tiffany. To understand it, we'll have to talk about thermodynamics, or the science of heating and cooling. Sea ice at the North Pole froze over 300 years ago! That's only 1700 years after Jesus walked the earth. The oldest ice at the North pole comes from this time, when hardy mariners brought great cooling vessels to the northernmost point of the world. At the time, it was merely a swamp, but over the course of centuries, it filled out into a sea: the arctic sea. When two pieces of sea ice collide, they form immense glacial peaks that are inhabited by the various denizens of polar climates: seals, walruses, and the majestic polar bear. This climate is well known for its deposits of sea salt, used by the natives as a kind of currency.

To return to your question, Lesley, the oldest piece of ice at the North Pole is 278 years old. The North Pole was last completely void of ice in 1723, before the first voyage.
2010-09-05 18:40:44 UTC
Ralph has pretty much nailed it here.

But it is all in Bill Bryson's 'A Short History Of Nearly Everything' if you are really interested in the details.

There was no 'medieval warm period'. It was the middle of a mini ice-age from which we are only just now emerging.

Tom Sawyer
2010-09-05 17:21:51 UTC
It is as old as the earth as for as how long has it been under Ice Long time. Climates are always changing the north pole was not always under ice as we think remember the ice age that killed all of the Dinosaurs.

And as for as Global warming is Concern the Earth Just changes from time to time Climate Changes that is what has happen over the Centuries and Malina.

It is magnetic fields that causes thease changes to ocure not Globle warming,
2010-09-05 16:32:36 UTC
New, actually. People started making expeditions there in the early 1900's
2010-09-05 16:32:43 UTC
since earth was made??
2010-09-06 09:29:46 UTC
its as old as your mother
2010-09-05 21:29:15 UTC
1800's year

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