Going South North by Northwest

Time was centuries ago that brave explorers in fragile wooden ships probed the bewildering series of ice-bound passages separating the islands of Northern Canada. Unlike the later Antarctic explorers, these were not quests for knowledge but hard-nosed attempts to find a sea passage through to the Pacific. They never succeeded—until now.

Satellite Image of Arctic Ice, August 2012 (at Record Low of 4.1m sq.km.)

You may have noticed we’ve had a poor summer; this is not a local phenomenon. Arctic sea ice follows an annual cycle of melting through the warm summer months and refreezing in the winter. It has shown a dramatic overall decline over the past 30 years and this year ships could have made the longer Northeast Passage around Siberia as well as the elusive Northwest one that many died failing to find. Clive Tesar of WWF’s global Arctic programme says:

“Record-breaking ice minimums are becoming the new normal. We’re breaking records on a regular basis as the sea ice continues its decline.”

According to many scientists, the sea ice plays a critical role in regulating climate, acting as a giant mirror that reflects much of the sun’s energy, helping to cool the Earth. The formation of the sea ice produces dense saltwater, which sinks, helping drive the deep ocean currents. Without the ice, many scientists fear this balance could be upset, potentially causing major climatic changes and our whole world will go south.

Before you next jump in your Chelsea Tractor, think about this.

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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