Neuron Culture

Arctic melt opens Northwest passage

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McClure Strait, long the bottleneck in the Northwest Passage, has been opened by warming seas.

A warming globe has created what a lot of very cold explorers could not find: Arctic melt has opened the Northwest passage, as described in good stories at ABC.com, ScienceMode, and in Nature:

The most direct shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, connecting Asia and Europe, is fully navigable for the first time since records began, data show. Warming has led to a record retreat of Arctic sea ice, which covers about 16 million square kilometres during March each year and melts to a minimum sometime in September or October. The previous record minimum was 5.32 million square kilometres, set in 2005, but this year it has already reached a low of 4.24 million square kilometres, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.”

As noted in articles at the CBC and in Harper’s (subscription required), this is likely to accelerate a struggle for control of the Passage — as well as related resources — involving Russia, Canada, and the U.S.

One of the many pleasures of Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams was his chapter on the search for the Passage. The determination and suffering of those who searched for it was stunning. Who would know they could have just waited? My home here in Vermont feels a bit more south by the day.