The Indy 500 Polar Ice Cap Marathon

Eureka! The Vavilov Ice Cap set unheard of speed records a couple of years ago in a massive “surge” and left climate scientists… well, speechless!

The Vavilov Ice Cap, located in the Russian High Arctic has, for years, cruised along at a speed of about 2 inches per day. But, along the way it was the recipient of an anthropogenic turbo-charged-CO2 infusion (scientists didn’t say that), setting all-time world speed records of 82 feet per day in a massive “surge.”

Hand-wringing scientists were aghast, confused. After all, ice caps are supposed to move by “inches,” not by 82 feet per day! Especially considering the mean average annual temperature at Vavilov Station of −16.5°C. Which is b-b-brittle cold.

Additionally, ice caps are very stable. The term “ice cap” refers to a specific type of glacier, a stable slow-moving glacier. That’s how it’s always been, until Vavilov hit the scene!

Vavilov Ice Cap is on October Revolution Island in the Arctic between the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea. It is a polar desert where frigid temps and dry weather should keep ice firmly tethered to bedrock. But, not Vavilov; it’s like a wild horse. As September 26, 2018, it is slipping/sliding at 15-35 feet per day, much faster than its long-term average of 2 inches. The Vavilov is 1,000 to 2,000 feet or 1/3rd of a mile thick, covering over 700 square miles.

Not only did Vavilov set all-time speed records but the scientists, after explaining they’ve never seen acceleration like Vavilov, raised a warning flag about the possibility that “other currently stable ice caps” may be more vulnerable than expected. Oh, really!1

They go on to say the rapid collapse of Vavilov has significant ramifications for glaciers in other polar regions, especially “those fringing Antarctica and Greenland,” where Sea Rise Monsters hang out.

Once again, similar to the same old story of scientists surprised by how fast things are happening, Vavilov caught them off guard: “Climate models don’t take this kind of surge into account.”2

Still, it’s important to realize that scientists have very limited historical data on glaciers in the world’s remotest locations, and without further study, the authors of the Vavilov report are reluctant to boldly claim that “climate change was/is the villain.” It’ll require considerable more study before drawing conclusions.

Yet, common sense would seem to indicate that some kind of warming is behind such an unusual shift in the speed. What else could it be? In time, more answers will become available. As for now, scientists are scratching their heads in disbelief.

Significantly, Vavilov breaks open a new dimension that should haunt the world’s major players. Previously, it was believed that large bodies of ice could only respond slowly to changing climate conditions. That’s dead wrong!

But then again, the entire Arctic is experiencing anomalous sea ice breakup of monstrous proportions. For example:

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer… a phenomenon scientists described as scary.3

Here are the gritty details: The Arctic sea north of Greenland has always, always, always been frozen rock solid, until now. Over the years, scientists labeled it “the last ice area,” a moniker that has now been crushed by global warming.

“Scary,’ wrote Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, in a retweet of a satellite-gif of the blue water penetrating white ice and exposing hundreds of miles of the Greenland coastline. “In February, the Kap Morris Jesup weather station in the region is usually below -20C, but earlier this year there were 10 days above freezing and warm winds, which unlocked the ice from the coast.”2

Whoa! Something is horribly amiss: It’s “usually below -20C” but instead it was above freezing for 10 consecutive days in February, in the middle of winter at the North Pole, and just to top off how ridiculous the year has been, an enormous ice cap elsewhere in the Arctic is moving at 15-25 feet per day after surging 82 feet per day!

The world is upside down and awry! You’ve gotta wonder: What climatic event(s) could possibly rival the implicit dire forecast of an ice cap speeding towards collapse?


Our globe is under new dramatic environmental pressure: our globe is warming, our ice caps melting, our glaciers receding, our coral is dying, our soils are eroding, our water tables falling, our fisheries are being depleted, our remaining rainforests shrinking. Something is very, very wrong with our eco-system.

— Richard Lamm, American politician, writer, attorney

  1. “Unprecedented Ice Loss in Russian Ice Cap”, University of Colorado at Boulder, EurekAlert! September 19, 2018. []
  2. Ibid. [] []
  3. Jonathan Watts. “Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record”, The Guardian, August 21, 2018. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Robert.