Arctic ice levels at record low opening Northwest Passage

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

This animation is comprised of Envisat ASAR mosaics of the Arctic Ocean for 2005, 2006 and 2007 and highlights the changes in sea ice. The ice-free areas appear as dark gray and the sea ice areas as light gray.
Image: ESA.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), 200 satellite images from the Danish National Space Center (DNSC) indicate that the Arctic ice levels are at an all time low, since the first images taken in 1978, and as a result the Northwest Passage has completely opened up for the first time since humans began to record history.

The images have shown the melting of the ice has "dramatically increased" more than previously thought and that by 2030, all of the summer ice could be gone with the region being completely ice free by 2070. Researchers call it an "extreme" situation and say that the ice is now shrinking at a level of about three million square kilometers a year, up from one million square kilometers per year in 2005.

"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice may disappear much sooner than expected," said DNSC spokesman Leif Toudal Pedersen in a statement.

The new findings have put Canada and the United States at a standoff, both laying claim to the passage because it could be a valuable resource for the shipping industry. The passage goes through the boundaries of both nations. In 1985 diplomatic relations on the passage were strained after a U.S. icebreaker passed through without the U.S. notifying Canadian officials.

As a result, the Canadian military is building two new bases at both ends of the areas they claim to be theirs. There will also be at least six new naval patrol ships built, that will be stationed in the passage.

The U.S. claims that regardless which country boundaries the passage passes through, the waterway should be open to anyone who wants to use it.

"We believe it's an international passage," said U.S. President George W. Bush.

Denmark, Norway, and Russia all also lay claim to the vast amounts of minerals, natural gas, and oil.

Sources

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