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Scientists Shocked as Arctic Polar Route Revealed 568

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-more-pesky-ice dept.
Paladin144 writes "A route unencumbered by perennial sea ice leading directly to the North Pole has been revealed by recent satellite pictures. European scientists indicated their shock as they noted a ship could sail from Europe's northern-most outpost directly to the pole, something that hasn't been possible during most of recorded human history. The rapid thawing of the perennial sea ice has political implications as the U.S., Canada, Russia and the EU jockey for control of the newly opened passages."
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Scientists Shocked as Arctic Polar Route Revealed

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  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:39AM (#16152033)
    "something that hasn't been possible during most of recorded human history."

    1. So it happened earlier in recorded human history?
    2. There was technology throughout most of human history that recorded Arctic ice cover?
    3. Until aircraft, nuclear submarines, nuclear icebreakers, and satellites were invented, nobody was able to say with certainty whether the Northwest Passage existed or not, which was previously the domain of people like Henry Hudson. Indeed, until the technology existed, nobody could really map the icepack with any decent accuracy.

    Sweeping statements like the above are simply stupid, as there is no evidence either way. They do make for good inflammatory copy, though.

    Oh yeah, in geological terms, human history is less than the blink of an eye. With fossils unearthed recently showing _tropical_ weather in Northern Canada, I think it's safe to say that the Arctic ice cap is a temporary feature.

    --
    BMO
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:04AM (#16152103) Homepage Journal
    There was technology throughout most of human history that recorded Arctic ice cover? Until aircraft, nuclear submarines, nuclear icebreakers, and satellites were invented, nobody was able to say with certainty whether the Northwest Passage existed or not, which was previously the domain of people like Henry Hudson. Indeed, until the technology existed, nobody could really map the icepack with any decent accuracy.

    We can extract ice cores and easily date the layers.

    The rest of your post is just "it may have happened before" handwaving. Ok, but it hasn't happened in a LONG time, the rate of change is unprecedented, and the possible economical consequences are enormous.
  • by zaydana (729943) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:24AM (#16152144)
    Shhhh.... don't tell the big polluters about this. Soon enough we're going to be hearing about the benefits of global warming and how it is creating more jobs and empowering the consumer, or something else equally as true.
  • We're all doomed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OriginalArlen (726444) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:39AM (#16152185)
    Here in the UK a serious climate research science institute - the Tyndall Centre, who've been working on this stuff for years -- have said that we need 70% cuts within the next 25 years, and the official govt targets of 60% by 2050 are not nearly enough [bbc.co.uk]. Of course, there's no way in hell the general public would accept the sort of measures required for that to happen, unless there's a really obvious, huge, and most important very imminent threat to the UK economy and/or society. I'm reminded of the passage in John Wyndham's classic "The Kraken Wakes" [wikipedia.org]. Aliens have established colonies in the deepest parts of the ocean (this was written in the 50s, when such places were barely accessible.) They set about melting the poles in order to alien-form Terra. A British scientist works out what they're up against and then goes on TV making dire predictions of imminent doom, ending by announcing that the sea-level has already risen by a quarter of an inch... with the predictable effect that everyone writes him off as an alarmist and a nutter, because why would anyone care about a quarter of an inch? He then protests to some friends, saying "But the amount of water required to cover the oceans to a depth of a quarter of an inch is immense! Think of the amount of energy required to achieve that!!"

    And that is pretty much what's happening here, except that between the skeptic nutters in the US, the petrochemical-funded astroturf pseudo-science that the Royal Society publicly protested about yesterday [google.co.uk]. By the time the evidence is clear that not only are massive changes occurring, but that these changes are going to kill tens or hundreds of millions of people, it will be too late.

    Hence, We're all doomed [bbc.co.uk]. I rest my case.

  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:46AM (#16152195) Homepage
    Russia has plenty of oil and methane, perhaps they could export it to North America that way.
    And by burning it, global temperatures rise further, opening up even more previously ice-bound trade routes! Yay!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:01AM (#16152239)
    The real struggle will be for the oil and natural resources previously buried underneath perenial ice cover.
  • by rainer_d (115765) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:06AM (#16152257) Homepage
    > Melting of the North polar ice cap makes no difference to sea levels.

    Indeed.
    Unfortunately, Greenland's ice glaciers are also melting, the island is getting greener every year. *That* ice cap does matter.

  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:20AM (#16152284) Homepage
    Someone wants to build a bridge across the Bering Strait, to re-link Asia and North America. Building that bridge is hard enough, but the real problem is that for it to be useful, we'd have to build a highway -- on both sides

    Close, with the vast distances to be covered and the high volume of freight, rail would be about the only choice. Even that would have difficulties some seasons and may not be practical year round. Though in the summer solar electric stations along the line could probably provide the power. Rails are more efficient than highways and able to route higher volumes of freight. They're also presumably easier for customs to monitor.

    That said, passenger transport is an easy addon once the freight line is there. Personal vehicles can be stowed in car carriers. Passengers can then spend time in their cabins or the restaurant, pub, etc. Roll your car, loaded with gear, on in Portland or Vancouver and off in Anchorage, Anadyr, Magadan, Jakutsk, Wuhan or Seoul.

    A highway would be a waste of resources at this point both to build, maintain and use. Just Portland to Anchorage is about 1500 miles [symsys.com], or about 25hrs of driving at an average speed of 60mph -- and that looks to be only about the halfway point.

  • Defensive wall (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TimothyTimothyTimoth (805771) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:56AM (#16152377)
    You don't need to invade, all you'd need is one dam-busting bomb.
  • Re:action please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:14AM (#16152407) Journal
    Well, to be honest, human's have a strong tendancy to believe that they are the center of the Universe, and everything that takes place somehow is because we are here (since the collective "we" are _so_ special).

    So by saying that _we_ are the cause of, and potentially can provide the solution to, the environmental changes on this planet, humans put themselves once again in the middle of things.

    Could humans be contributing to the warming of the Earth? Sure, I'll buy that. Could it be in conjuction with a natural cycle in preperation of another ice age? Perhaps. I just don't think that pointing the finger at ourselves solves anything. I think it makes folks feel better when they can blame someone. If it's too late, it's too late and there is no value with placing blame. The system you are using to view /. and post on here wasn't created without any CO2 being put into the ecosystem.

    As soon as the Yellowstone Caldera erupts, you'll get all the ice back along with other results (human, plant, animal losses). So the Earth will take care of itself. Call it a self-cleaning system. Then the humans that remain, can rebuild and be a little more wise when doing so. But I doubt it.
  • by c_forq (924234) <forquerc+slash@gmail.com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:44AM (#16152478)
    I never understood this conjecture. I mean, using this logic shouldn't the Netherlands pretty much never have existed?
  • Re:OMG!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Asylumn (598576) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:38AM (#16152642)
    The devil in the White House is to blame!

    I'm afraid your post will be marked redundant. This is /. after all, that the devil in the White House is to blame is a given.
  • Re:For the critics (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Lurker2288 (995635) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:42AM (#16152658)
    Most of the papers that are critical of global warming are also published by SCIENTISTS in PEER REVIEWED journals; aren't they also subject to the most rigorous scientific scrutiny? And do you really think there's no pressure for climatologists to 'toe the party line,' so to speak, when it comes to global warming? In fact, I'll go one further, and say that maybe it's because dissenters have trouble securing funding elsewhere that they have to rely on petrochemical companies, who, of course, are only too happy to spend some money muddying the waters of public consensus. Personally, I do believe human behavior is influencing the climate, but let's not pretend that the pro-warming camp doesn't have an agenda of its own.
  • Re:Defensive wall (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:09AM (#16152772)
    Beavers build dams, Einstein.
  • Re:Priorities?!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thundersnatch (671481) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:25AM (#16152861) Journal
    This! This! is why I want to vote communist!

    Dude, the Soviet-Communist governments in Russia and Europe were amongst the worst polluters in history. Brown coal, Chernobyl, plenty of chemical dumps, etc.

    History has shown that a standard-issue Commie government doesn't give a shit about the individual - just the power of the state or collective. So Commies don't care if a few individuals get cancer from benzine in the ground water, or chokes to death on sulfuric acid rain? The environmental horrors left behind by the Reds will be with us for a long, long time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:35AM (#16152925)
    You're an idiot. Half the clips are from Catch Me if You Can. Hell, they even had a scene from the Incredible Hulk in there!

    And not to mention that the guy in the submarine had on a pair of goggles with "Diamond Finder" written in masking tape on them...

    Yeah... it's so real -_-
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:49AM (#16153004) Homepage Journal
    The bigger struggle will be for control of trade routes. Countries with the north-most land are claiming ownership of the new open water. Control of trade routes has always been a major factor in economies. Ownership of the north waters will provide a huge amount of economic and political power to a few countries.
  • by radtea (464814) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:11AM (#16153164)
    We can't prove that cracks that these haven't happened before, I agree, but we can prove with some pretty good evidence that the north pole hasn't gone through this amount of change recently (within a couple of hundred thousand years)

    The very references you point to suggest otherwise. There is evidence from Greenland ice cores [agu.org] that the Earth went through periods considerably warmer than recent history in the past 10,000 years. There is also pollen data (google "paleolimnology" for references [uottawa.ca]). These events occured within the past few hundred thousand years.

    The claim that there is anything particularly "unprecedented" about current climate variability, including it's rapidity and it's affect on the Arctic, is simply marketing. The Earth's climate has always been highly variable, responding to a variety of external influences and internal changes, such as the current spike in atmospheric CO2 levels due to human industrial activity.

    The consequences of climate variability, such as species extinction (but not apparently polar bears, thankfully, as they have survived through the warmer periods of the past) and the destruction of human societies--such as the Viking settlements in Greenland and North America--are also quite well known.

    The problem with "news" is that it has to appear "new". Humans are attracted by novelty and most humans are cowards, so we are particulary attracted by novel threats. Ergo, even scientists (and certainly universities and research institutes that have an eye on public funding) put the most novel spin possible on every result.

    Some people argue that we must lie this way to get attention paid to global climate change and our contribution to it. This is a mistake. A society that needs to believe falsehoods on the order of "nothing like this has ever happened before OMG it's new and scary" before it is willing to change does not deserve to survive.

    In the same way that hostility from irrational, truth-hating creationists stifled healthy debate within the evolutionary community for many years, it is possible that irrational, truth-hating climate-change-deniers will cripple debate within the climatological community. That would be a shame, because it is only science that is going to get us out of this mess. And interestingly, creationists and climate-change-deniers have some remarkable similarities in their beliefs: they both believe that the Earth is far more stable than it actually is, and they both have blind faith in humanity's special place in it, as if we are immune to the forces of nature that we have helped unleash around us.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:28AM (#16153841)
    For centuries people sought the Northwest Passage alternative to the stormy Tierra Del Fuego or narrow Panama Canal. Amundson (first guy to south pole) lead the first successful sea passage exactly a hundred years ago. Now people are routinely doing this in the summer. Pretty soon it might be safe enough for summer commercial ships.
  • by lipi (142489) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:35PM (#16158385)
    According to this article [iht.com]:

    "The Arctic is undergoing nothing less than a great rush for virgin territory and natural resources worth hundreds of billions of dollars..."

    "...In 2001, Russia made the first move, staking out virtually half of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole. Moscow sought to bolster its claim by sending a research ship north to gather geographical data. On Aug. 29, it reached the pole without the help of an icebreaker - the first surface ship ever to do so."

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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