Arctic ice melt opens Northwest Passage


hermanntrude
#1
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 16, 4:39 AM ET

PARIS - Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal. The seasonal ebb and flow of ice levels has already opened up a slim summer window for ships.

Leif Toudal Pedersen, of the Danish National Space Center, said that Arctic ice has shrunk to some 1 million square miles. The previous low was 1.5 million square miles, in 2005.

"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected," Pedersen said in an ESA statement posted on its Web site Friday.
Pedersen said the extreme retreat this year suggested the passage could fully open sooner than expected but ESA did not say when that might be. Efforts to contact ESA officials in Paris and Noordwik, the Netherlands, were unsuccessful Saturday.

A U.N. panel on climate change has predicted that polar regions could be virtually free of ice by the summer of 2070 because of rising temperatures and sea ice decline, ESA noted.

Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States are among countries in a race to secure rights to the Arctic that heated up last month when Russia sent two small submarines to plant its national flag under the North Pole. A U.S. study has suggested as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the area.

Environmentalists fear increased maritime traffic and efforts to tap natural resources in the area could one day lead to oil spills and harm regional wildlife.

Until now, the passage has been expected to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multiyear ice pack sea ice that remains through one or more summers, ESA said.

Researcher Claes Ragner of Norway's Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which works on Arctic environmental and political issues, said for now, the new opening has only symbolic meaning for the future of sea transport.

"Routes between Scandinavia and Japan could be almost halved, and a stable and reliable route would mean a lot to certain regions," he said by phone. But even if the passage is opening up and polar ice continues to melt, it will take years for such routes to be regular, he said.

"It won't be ice-free all year around and it won't be a stable route all year," Ragner said. "The greatest wish for sea transportation is streamlined and stable routes."

"Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route," he said, "but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there."

The opening observed this week was not the most direct waterway, ESA said. That would be through northern Canada along the coast of Siberia, which remains partially blocked.
___
Associated Press Writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.
 
Extrafire
#2
Quote:

The (not so big) melt

Lorne Gunter
National Post
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

They started appearing last month: alarmist articles that claim the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean this summer would be the "smallest ever recorded."

Would be. By mid-September, when Arctic temperatures begin to cool.

I had one question, though, that went unanswered in story after story: For how long have reliable records of Arctic ice cover been kept? What is the significance of claims that this summer's ice pack is the smallest "ever recorded"?

I am always dubious of claims made by global-warming alarmists before the end of a year or a season that such-and-such is going to be the coldest/warmest/wettest/driest whatever on record.

The British national climate centre is notorious for this -- issuing press releases in November that the current year will be the warmest on record, before December's temperatures are even in. That's why since 2000 or 2001 there has been no significant increase in global temperatures, yet annually we have been assured (prematurely) that each year has been the hottest ever (or nearly so).

You can be assured of being the fastest sprinter in history if you're permitted to stop timing your dash 10 metres short of the finish, just as you can claim any year is warmer than the ones before it if you make that prediction based on just 11 months data, particularly if the missing 12th month is one of those wintry ones, like December.

So over what time span are we talking about with Arctic sea ice? Just how long is this "ever"?

The scientists behind the prediction made statements such as "the sea ice seems to be in a death spiral." Instead of the Arctic being ice-free in summer by 2070 or 2100 -- as the UN's vaunted climate computer models project -- this new prediction indicated the total melt of Arctic ice in summer "could occur as early as 2030."

Shock. Horror. Call Al Gore and offer to make him king of the world, if only he will promise to stop this carnage!

In order to say such things so definitively, though, we must know with some certainty what the ice cover up there has been for hundreds of years.

From the 14th century to the 19th, the Earth was gripped by the Little Ice Age. For nearly 500 years, temperatures were unusually cold. Arctic ice was, presumably, unusually thick. So, of course before we go off claiming that the polar ice cap is melting at an unprecedented rate, we can claim with certainty what its coverage was in, say, 1325 or 980, right?

We're not even sure what it was in 1965.

We have reliable satellite images of Arctic ice coverage only going back as far as 1979, and reasonably reliable surface and air observations going back to 1972. (Thanks to blogger Noel Sheppard at newsbusters.org for ferreting out those essential facts that seemed to have been overlooked in nearly every news story on this "crisis.")

There are reasonably good records going back to the mid-1950s, when American nuclear submarines began their Cold War patrols under the ice pack. Yet even these are spotty, covering some regions one year and then not again for another decade or more.

As Mr. Sheppard points out, the great Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen navigated the Northwest Passage in 1905 in a wooden sailboat with a crew of just seven. The passage was sufficiently ice-free that year for the little craft to make it through with little ice-breaking capacity.

And in 1944, the tiny RCMP patrol vessel the St. Roch (which can still be seen at the Vancouver Maritime Museum) sailed from Halifax to Vancouver through the passage in a single season --a first --because it met little ice.

In a report to the Admiralty in 1817, the British Royal Society noted that "the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years greatly abated." The "Arctic Seas," it noted, were "more accessible than they have been for centuries past," making exploration and trade possible during the summer melt.

This has happened before.

Instead of warning that this summer's melt was the greatest "ever," perhaps the headlines should have read "Arctic melt this year biggest since last big melt." Link

Something related perhaps. I heard on CBC this week that the Pacific surface waters have been much colder than normal this year, only warming half as much as they should have from their winter temps. 3 degrees C lower than normal off the BC and Alaska coasts, and 1.5 C lower at the equator. It's not a La Nina, although it has some of the characteristics. They don't know what caused it, and have no records of ever seeing anything like it in the past.

No doubt this unusual cooling was caused by global warming!
 
Cobalt_Kid
#3
I guess that's why everybody is rushing to lay claim to the Arctic seabed for mineral rights eh Extrafire?

So far the Russians are in the lead but there's no need to worry because according to geniuses like you everything is perfectly normal. Who cares if we're pumping billions of extra(hey that's where you got your name) tons of greenhouse gases into the air, it won't ever harm us right? Kind of like how we were told for decades that smoking wasn't hazardous to our health and by some of the same scientists now denying Global Warming. And don't forget that the oceans act as the worlds lungs and most of the oxygen production occures there. Increasing the atmospheric CO2 doesn't just warm the planet it increases the acidity of the oceans as they work to absorb the higher levels. Researchers are already starting to notice negative effects on plankton in the sea.

The oil industry stands to lose an incredible amount of money if CO2 emmission controls are enacted, much more than Big Tobacco ever did. Which is the real reason people like you are working to deny the real science.
Last edited by Cobalt_Kid; Sep 22nd, 2007 at 06:33 PM..
 
Extrafire
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

I guess that's why everybody is rushing to lay claim to the Arctic seabed for mineral rights eh Extrafire?

I would say it's because there's oil and gas there, and they want it. There's money to be made.

Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

So far the Russians are in the lead but there's no need to worry because according to geniuses like you everything is perfectly normal. Who cares if we're pumping billions of extra(hey that's where you got your name)

The name is a derivative of the name of a website I used to own.
Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

tons of greenhouse gases into the air, it won't ever harm us right?

Right.
Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

Kind of like how we were told for decades that smoking wasn't hazardous to our health and by some of the same scientists now denying Global Warming.

They didn't deny smoking was hazardous, the tobacco industry did. There are some who claim that second-hand smoke isn't as bad as was claimed. They don't deny global warming either, they deny the anthropological cause.
Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

And don't forget that the oceans act as the worlds lungs and most of the oxygen production occures there. Increasing the atmospheric CO2 doesn't just warm the planet it increases the acidity of the oceans as they work to absorb the higher levels. Researchers are already starting to notice negative effects on plankton in the sea.

I doubt extra CO2 will harm the oceans, since they absorb it from the atmosphere and hold more of it when colder, and release it to the atmosphere when warmer. The colder the climate the more CO2 in the oceans. That is a well established scientific fact.

Quote: Originally Posted by Cobalt_Kid View Post

The oil industry stands to lose an incredible amount of money if CO2 emmission controls are enacted, much more than Big Tobacco ever did. Which is the real reason people like you are working to deny the real science.

I'm no fan of either the tobacco industry or the oil industry. If we had no more tobacco products, the world would be a better place. But oil we need, because our modern technological society and economy run on energy, and as yet there's no replacement for oil for much of it. If CO2 emissions were ever reduced enough to make a difference, you and I would suffer more than the oil industry when the economy implodes.