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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Open Passage

Open Passage

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, July 31, 2018/Categories: natural history, space science, sustainability, environment, climate change

      Beligica Trapped in Ice Searching for the Northwest Passage, 1912  (credit: NOAA)

The famous Northwest Passage is now open. The goal of many 18th and 19th Century explorers is now virtually ice-free in mid-summer. A sea lane across the Arctic Ocean coastlline, through the archipelago of islands to Greenland, and into the Atlantic ocean was photograped 3 years apart on the same day in mid-August showing the extent of sea ice.

        Northwest Passage, August 9, 2013      (photo credits: NASA)     Northwest Passage, August 9, 2016

According to NASA: "a path of open water can be traced along most of the distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay. Seasonal ice this year—ice that grew since the end of last summer and found throughout the Passage—was thinner than normal. This ice melts more easily, breaks up, moves out of the channels, and could allow an ice-strengthened ship to move through without much difficulty."


                                                  Arctic Ocean, Mid-summer Sea Ice Extent (NSIDC)

New data released by the National Snow & Ice Data Center shows As of mid-July, Arctic sea ice extent was 3.3 million square miles which is ~480,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. The Northwest passage, long sought by the early mariners, has already initiated a scramble by several countries to capture what are expected to be an important new shipping route. Potential impacts to Arctic fisheries and wildlife are yet to be determined. The de-icing Arctic has already seen killer whales (orcas) appearing in coastal zones where they had never existed before.

Climate models predicting an open Arctic by the middle of the 21st Century need major revision.



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