16-foot waves have now been detected in the Arctic Ocean, a sign of worry for researchers. The Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea is just north of Alaska. The Arctic Ocean was once deemed to be “icy,” but the new wave measurements will demolish this assumption.

According to research conducted by Washington University’s Jim Thomson and Naval Research Laboratory’s W. Erick Rogers. Thomson and Rogers were somewhat surprised by the new wave measurements: “The observations reported here are the only known wave measurements in the central Beaufort Sea because until recently the region remained ice covered throughout the summer and there were no waves to measure.”

The larger Arctic Ocean waves indicate that what was once ice has melted – producing more liquid water and thus, bigger waves. Thomson and Rogers believe that the swelling waves will feature more energy, which will contribute to a faster meltdown of the ice accumulation than even global warming can create. Should conditions continue, we could be looking at an ice-free summer in the Arctic Ocean. “Waves could accelerate the ice retreat. We don’t have much direct evidence of this, or knowledge of the relative importance compared with melting, but the process is real. We are conducting a large project this summer to answer just that question,” said Thomson.

As for what the Arctic Ocean waves could indicate for Alaskan waters, it could be the case that the usual snowy, cold state could see warmer temperatures in years to come. Further research will be conducted to determine the long-term impact of the Arctic Ocean’s larger waves.