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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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  • trade with russia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suzerain (245705) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:34AM (#16152021) Homepage

    I would think this will open up lots of new trade opportunities between Russia and North America. I don't know what that could mean, but it is certainly interesting. What kind of manufacturing prowess does Russia have that has been heretofore underutilized because they could not as efficiently get goods to North American ports? Or is this all a bunch of hooey?

    (I thought of this because I remember reading this article about Pat Broe [commondreams.org], which may or may not have been slashdotted, but it is about an investor in the Canadian port of Churchill, Manitoba, which could well profit from an opened northern passage.)

    By the way, I live in Manhattan, and I think it's about time to move...to some city somewhere that's 20 or 30 miles inland.

  • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:43AM (#16152042) Homepage
    Depends where you are. In the US - warming. In Europe - chilling as the gulfstream is supposed to stop. The forecast for UK is 9C lower average temperature and 15C lower minimum temperature during the winter. Considering the build quality of the average british house...
  • The implications... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by telchine (719345) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:50AM (#16152064)
    I wonder how long it'll be before capitalistic-minded individuals realise the substantial implications of this; they can make money selling boat cruises to the North Pole!
  • Re:trade with russia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suzerain (245705) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:51AM (#16152065) Homepage
    I always just assumed that it's because that's not where U.S., or Russian, infrastructure is set up. I think the costs of running suitable rail lines and roads and whatnot out to areas where absolutely no one lives are just prohibitive to the kind of return it would show. That's just assumption on my part, though.

    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 -- that'd have to be literally thousands of miles long just to get to any population centers. So, alas, no road trips to Beijing are in our future here in the USA.

  • One guy who knows? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tryfan (235825) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:17AM (#16152131)
    When the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (owner of the British soccer champions Chelsea, among a lot of other things) started his Chukotka project, on the inlet to Bering's Strait, there was some speculation on whether he knew someting that others didn't.
    Maybe he did? Check out Chukotka on a map and see for yourselves :-)

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institu tions_government/chukotka_3904.jsp [opendemocracy.net]
  • by Sidde (758228) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:53AM (#16152214) Homepage
    Santa is from Rovaniemi, Finland.
    Rovaniemi is a town close to the artic circle in Finland and Finland is a country between Sweden and Russia.
    Finland used to be the eastern part of Sweden, but lost it to the Russians in a war. So, depending of the age of santa, he is either a Finn, a Swede or a Russian.
  • by FST777 (913657) <frans-jan.van-steenbeek@net> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:11AM (#16152274) Homepage
    It has been predicted that half of the Netherlands (my homeland) will dissapear gradually during the next 100 years, unless we build better and higher dams all around the sea. Offcourse, parts of the NL are already under sea-level ("polders") but not nearly half of it.

    Luckily, I live in the area which will be unaffected, so all I have to do to get rich is buy massive amounts of land here. Still, the implications would be enormous.

    The more I think of it, the more I believe we should act, and act quick. But I'm not certain as to act upon WHAT exactly.
  • by JonathanR (852748) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:22AM (#16152289)
    What I find interesting (from a thermodynamics viewpoint) about the melting of the polar ice cap, is that if it was atmospheric warming, and the ice was melting from the top down, you'd expect to see rivers of liquid water. Since this hasn't been reported (so I presume it isn't occuring), I can only assume that the melting is taking place from the bottom up. This means that warm ocean currents travelling underneath the sea ice must be the energy transport mechanism. Now, surely changes in ocean current flow or temperature would have to be significant to change the thermodynamic balance (obviously there are seasonal cycles). Wouldn't the ocean temperature changes and/or flow velocity changes be measureable?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:35AM (#16152315)
    Why would you think that? Sea ice is porous so a small but consistent melt won't be seen. Why do you think there are no rivers of water over the ice pack when summer comes to the poles and the ice retreats?
  • Re:action please (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:37AM (#16152321) Homepage Journal
    Well, the way we should adapt is directly dependent on why it is changing. There is no clear scientific proof of to what extent humans are responsible for this and to what extent complete removal of any human CO2 emission could change the situation. I saw the Inconbenient Truth - there were not a single word about to what extent we are responsible for current global warming.

    Another thing that follows from the same Gore movie is that current global warming is in line with periodical "ice age" style variations of global temperature.

    All you need, you alarmists, is to watch the same Gore movie, in particular the scientific evidence he presenting not some "global warming for dummies" style illustritions.

    It is not about warming or not. It is about (a) how much warmer (b) how much are we contributing to this.
  • Lutefisk explained (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeppe Salvesen (101622) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:39AM (#16152330)
    In fact, the story behind lutefisk is less impressive.

    Most likely [wikipedia.org], there was a fire. And then lye was created by combination of ashes+water, and the lye damaged the fish. But throwing away the fish was not an option, so the hungry folks did their best with what they had - and hey presto! Lutefisk was born..

    But yeah, only crazy people eat lutefisk. And crazy people are not to be messed with!

    And while we're at nasty Norwegian food, check this [flickr.com] out! Yep - baked sheep's head.
  • by nsbyrer (1004261) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:38AM (#16152465)
    I don't know that I would consider humankind a "feature". Humankind is more like a virus. It started small, grew quickly and started using all system resources to the point where the system can barely sustain itself. Operations start to slow down to a crawl and weird things start to happen in the system until one day the operator decides it's time to rebuild...
  • For the critics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Roger_Explosion (709412) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:15AM (#16152571) Journal
    It seems to me like across rest of the world there is a pretty solid consensus amongst people and scientists alike that global warming is real, and that humans are responsible for it. In the US however, opinion seems to be divided, and it seems to be divided roughly along party lines. Does it not occur to you critics of the theory that people are responsible for global warming that perhaps, just perhaps you are buying into bullshit propaganda and pseudo-science?

    A lot of the 'science' that questions our role in global warming is in fact funded, directly or indirectly, by big industries like the oil industry. Doesn't that make you a little suspicious? The global scientific community has no reason to lie about this. There is not some massive conspiracy amongst climatologists to increase their prestige and funding. Occam's razor people.

    Critics try to use scientific principles to discredit climate research that links mankind to climate change. What the hell? These are SCIENTISTS that are doing this research, they are PEER REVIEWED papers they are putting out. Don't you think that they have already been subject to the most rigorous scientific scrutiny?
  • by Knuckles (8964) <knuckles&dantian,org> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:32AM (#16152623)
    The thing is, they wrestled half of the Netherlands from the sea in the first place. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    To guard against floods, a series of defenses against the water were contrived. In the first millennium, villages and farmhouses were built on man-made hills called terps. Later, these terps were connected by dikes. In the 12th century, local government agencies called "waterschappen" (English "water bodies") or "hoogheemraadschappen" ("high home councils") started to appear, whose job it was to maintain the water level and to protect a region from floods. (The water bodies are still around today performing the exact same function.) As the ground level dropped, the dikes by necessity grew and merged into an integrated system. In the 13th century, windmills came into use to pump water out of the areas by now below sea level. The windmills were later used to drain lakes, creating the famous polders. In 1932, the Afsluitdijk (English "Closure Dike") was completed, blocking the former Zuyderzee (Southern Sea) off from the North Sea and thus creating the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake). It became part of the larger Zuiderzee Works in which four polders totalling 1,650 square kilometres (637 sq mi) were reclaimed from the sea.
  • Re:trade with russia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:03AM (#16152749) Journal
    I'm surprised no one (in my search) has mentioned this now-undiscredited Scientific Theory [wikipedia.org]. Somone want to edit the Wikipedia article?
  • by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:22AM (#16152845) Homepage Journal
    You may have been joking, but as far as I know Americans are pretty much unique in their desire to build a stick-frame house and glue a thin layer of brick onto the outside. When we moved here from England in 1984 it actually took quite a while for our realtor to make us understand that no, in fact, none of the houses we were looking at were actually "brick" houses. In England, when you have a brick house, its a real brick house made with real structural bricks.

    Of course, in the US, everyone's totally chuffed if you live in a "historic" house. You know, like one from the 1920s.
  • Right of Passage (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:30AM (#16153305) Homepage Journal
    "the U.S., Canada, Russia and the EU jockey for control of the newly opened passages"

    Now it should be obvious to everyone why global politicians are so "blind" to global warming. Where all the political and business interest opposition to the science comes from, and how huge it really is.

    The Old World (led by the "EU") colonized the New World as just a part of their quest for a "Northwest Passage" [wikipedia.org] between their European and Asian coasts. Half a millennium of genocide, rape, pillage and pollution have followed, making those in the business more rich, powerful and evil than imagined before. Now they're finally getting such a direct route, between even more valuable ports. No opposition from any academics, grassroots political organizations, and documentary movies is going to get in the way of that engine that's moved the world for all of modern history.
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:37AM (#16153374) Homepage Journal

    Wood vs Brick is not an issue in stormproofing homes. You'll find proportionally just as many CBS (concrete block - same as brick only a different sized "brick" and with stucco smeared on the outside) homes in Florida that had severe damage due to the last four hurricanes as wood frame homes.

    The two major issues in terms of hurricane proofing are tornadoes (you can't tornado-proof a house short of burying it several feet underground. Building it out of brick will not help) and roofing tiedowns. The latter is where we saw the major avoidable issues last year and the year before. Poorly built roofs were easily ripped off by any winds that were able to get underneath.

    While CBS is stronger than wood, wood is more flexible so can take just as much punishment without actually breaking. The major downside of wood isn't how it handles the weather, it's termites. For that reason, I went for a CBS home, but I wouldn't worry about going to a hurricane party in someone's wooden home if it's up to modern building codes.

    True story: Janet Reno, Clinton's future AG, waited out Hurricane Andrew in her mother's home, wood, and of her own specifications, built fifty years previous. Because it was correctly built and maintained, it was one of the few homes on her street still standing afterwards.

  • shock wears off (Score:2, Interesting)

    by White Yeti (927387) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:41AM (#16153425) Homepage Journal
    Big changes always happen after a big storm. The FEMA [fema.gov] and insurance groups study the wreckage and come up with new recommendations, which the various governments (fed, state, local) may enact through building codes. The FEMA keeps case studies [fema.gov], for other people to copy and learn. Hurricane-prone states have programs [state.tx.us] specifically to address construction in the hurricane zones.

    Living in a "Windstorm II" area [state.tx.us], our bigggest concern is wind-blown debris smashing a window, which lets the wind blow inside, which can then rip the roof off from the inside. That's why hurricane shutters are a big deal. (We're still saving up to buy nice shutters for our house.) Our stick-built house, with brick "veneer", is built to withstand winds gusting to 110 MPH. Note that the above Louisiana success story added $12K to the cost of the house, and would probably violate most planned-subdivision regulations.

    That said, a friend from Puerto Rico was shocked when she first moved up here. She nearly put her hammer through the wall trying to hang a picture. "What! The walls aren't made of cement blocks?!"
  • by osu-neko (2604) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:54AM (#16153529)

    That's a real phenomenon. Of course, it's a long-term one. The North American continent is still in the return swing of it's sea-saw motion, with the part of the continent above the 49th parallel (Canada) rising while the southern half sinks. The northern half was pressed down by the ice during the last ice age, and is still rising from when it all melted away 10,000 years ago.

    But that won't affect the ice sheet in question in this article, since this ice sheet is floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and rests on no land at all.

  • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:38AM (#16153937) Journal
    "It seems to me like across rest of the world there is a pretty solid consensus amongst people and scientists alike that global warming is real, and that humans are responsible for it. In the US however, opinion seems to be divided, and it seems to be divided roughly along party lines."

    Most of the world's nations that contribute to climatology are well to the left of the US, and they and our slightly less conservative party (Democrats) are in agreement about global warming. Reality has a well-known liberal bias, so there you go. It's pretty simple, really.
  • Re:trade with russia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CodeMasterPhilzar (978639) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:38AM (#16153941)

    Interesting analysis. Brings up one question though... Being a Mechanical Engineering and Comp-Sci type I honestly don't know, so I'll ask... In your 1.000 m^3 of salt water, how much of the *volume* is due to water, and how much is due to salt? I understand the salt is dissolved into the water, but do the salt molecules fit perfectly between the water molecules? That is, if I take 1.000 m^3 of fresh water and throw in 20.1 kg of sea-salt, do I still have 1.000 m^3 of (now salty) water?

    The reason I ask is that in your analysis, at the end, your 915 kg of fresh water would not be fresh for very long. It would absorb salt from the surrounding water. This pulling salt from that water might (?) pull down the volume it occupies. Granted, at the same time it would be adding salt to the fresh water volume. The real question is, is there a volume change by adding/removing salt, and is the relationship linear? If it is not linear, you might get more of a volume reduction from the (relatively) high salinity water than you would get from adding the initial salt to the fresh.

    I guess what you'd really have to look at is the total volume of the oceans, volumes of salt and water, mass of salt and water. Then look at how much volume you'd gain for the oceans by pulling out the ice, and how much volume you'd have at the end, with the net slightly lower salinity after difusing all that fresh water back in.

  • by Acer500 (846698) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:24PM (#16155985) Journal
    Also, brick houses aren't really made out of brick anymore.


    You must mean in the US. Over here (South America) plenty of new houses are made of brick (reinforced with concrete beams if I'm correct, I don't know much about building).

    Here's a Colombian website which shows the basic Spanish system that's also used here (Uruguay)

    http://www.senamed.edu.co/cursos%20virtuales/const ruccion/guia_de_estudio8ok.htm [senamed.edu.co]

    Wait, this story is about the polar ice cap?


    Err... well, we might have to modify our building style over here thanks to the global climate changes... we had what amounts to a small hurricane last year, and we were thoroughly unprepared, it toppled lots of antennas, killed several people and most are still rebuilding (brick houses aren't as easy to rebuild as the wooden ones, I give you that).

    In fact, someone who studied in Cuba told me housing there isn't built to resist, exactly the opposite... cheap to build and cheap to re-build after an hurricane.
  • by zenhkim (962487) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:56PM (#16156788) Journal
    > You failed geography, right? Most of California and New York are above sea level, way above the 10 to 15 feet the sea level is expected to rise over the next century.

    While it's true that most of the land in Calfornia and New York State is above sea level, don't forget that much of the *population* is concentrated at or very close to the coastline. New York City, in particular, would be FUCKED by a rise in sea level, and other cities like San Francisco would also be in trouble (remember, the sea has tides). Even if most of California and New York remain above water, it would still be a tragic loss -- otherwise one could argue that the devastation of New Orleans was only a "minor" loss compared to the relative safety of Louisiana.

    > Now Virginia Beach, Virginia, home of Pat Robertson, GONE. And not a moment too soon.

    If I was still a church-goin' Christian, I'd say, "Amen to that, brother." ;)

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