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Global warming: Geographers eye future Arctic shipping routes

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The fastest navigation routes for ships seeking to cross the Arctic Ocean by mid-century include the Northwest Passage (on the left) and over the North Pole (center), in addition to the Northern Sea Route (on the right).

New study looks at Arctic sea ice projections and also explores geopolitical issues

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study helps quantify some of recent speculation about shipping routes through the Arctic, indicating that, in 40 years, normal seagoing vessels will be able to  navigate previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean without the help of icebreakers.

The Arctic ice sheet is expected to thin to the point that polar icebreakers will be able to navigate between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by making a straight shot over the North Pole, according to UCLA geographers Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson. Continue reading

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Global warming: February sea ice extent at record low

Arctic sea ice extent for February 2011 was 14.36 million square kilometers (5.54 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole.

Northern hemisphere snow cover well above average

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Arctic sea ice extent in February tied with 2005 for lowest on record since 1979, when satellite measurements began. Ice covered about 5.54 million square miles of the Arctic area, about half a million square miles below the average.

The sea ice extent was below average in both the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, especially in the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, according to the monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Here’s an excerpt:

“While ice extent has declined less in winter months than in summer, the downward winter trend is clear. The 1979 to 2000 average is 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles). From 1979 through 2003, the February extent averaged 15.60 million square kilometers (6.02 million square miles). Every year since 2004 has had a mean February extent below 15 million square kilometers (5.79 million square miles).” Continue reading

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