A scientific research group says ice floes may disappear from Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido at the end of this century.
Ice floes from Russia's coastal areas are spotted off the coast of the city of Abashiri in January or February each year. They attract many tourists.
A research group at the Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido examined the relationship between average temperatures and the amount of ice floes spotted at four locations over a 15-year period ending in 2009. The group conducted the investigation to look into the effects of global warming.
The results show that ice floes decrease as average temperatures in the January-March period rise. They also show that ice floes will disappear if average temperatures rise by 4.1 degrees in Shari Town, 3.1 degrees in Abashiri, 2.5 degrees in the city of Monbetsu, and 2.1 degrees in Esashi Town.
The regional meteorological observatory in Sapporo simulated average temperatures along the Sea of Okhotsk coast between the winter and spring. The simulation was based on global warming data and other information released by the United Nations. It revealed the possibility of a temperature increase of three to six degrees at the end of this century.
Ice floes formed in Russia's coastal areas are not expected to move down toward Hokkaido as temperatures go up. The head of the Sea Ice Museum, Shuhei Takahashi, says the disappearance of ice floes in the prefecture is occurring at a faster pace than expected.
Ice floes that cover the Sea of Okhotsk during the coldest period of winter provide a home for plankton. They also give food to marine life such as salmon and cod. Takahashi says the decrease and disappearance of ice floes could affect the ecosystem in the Sea of Okhotsk.