Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Shocked as Arctic Polar Route Revealed

Comments Filter:
  • by kongit (758125) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:27AM (#16151994)
    Is it just me or is the world cracking up?

    What was the joke?
  • pr0n (Score:4, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:27AM (#16151995) Homepage
    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.

    Now look, I've seen quite a few movies where they go straight to the pole. No dialogue, nothing. Seriously.
  • by TechnoBunny (991156) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:32AM (#16152009)
    Did they find any evidence of ManPolarBearPig?
  • There won't be as many icebergs for ships to run into.

  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:32AM (#16152014)
    Without the polar ice cap, where are the missle subs going to hide?

    • Not only that, we will be spared a remake of Ice Station Zebra.

    • by syousef (465911) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:51AM (#16152066) Journal
      Screw that! What about Santa!? I want my pressies damnit!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JonathanR (852748)
      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 f
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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?
      • by JohnWiney (656829) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:57AM (#16152724)
        You've obviously never watched snow melt on your front lawn, or stood on a melting glacier.

        First, the pack ice is full of cracks and crevices, so "rivers" would disappear into them. The ice melts preferentially on the north side of these cracks and ridges, the side facing the sun.

        Second, when ice melts in the sun, it tends to form "pinacles" of crunchy ice (presumably a result of variations in the surface resulting in shadows, surface dirt capturing more heat, etc.) Water melts at top, and runs down or falls down into the ice. The heat of the water, and to some degree the kinetic energy of the drops, melts some of the ice further down. If the layer is thick enough, the water forms small pools and re-feezes, thus forming the dense ice that "normally" lasts all year; if enough melts, a hole forms and the water disappears into the sea (or, on land, forms rivers that flow out from the bottom of the glacier.)

        Melting from the bottom also obviously has a significant effect, since much of the sea water is obviously warmer than the ice. There is "normally" a state of equilibrium, with water melting at about the same rate snow falls on top, averaged over a few years. Right now, more is melting than freezing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mutube (981006)
          The ice melts preferentially on the north side of these cracks and ridges, the side facing the sun.

          I assume you're in the Southern hemisphere, because 'oop North the Sun is most definately to the South.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LucidBeast (601749)
        I was just listening some guy studying artic being interviewed on radio about his studies. On the show the reporter I think from BBC and this scientist whose name escapes me visited an iceberg. They describe the top of the iceberg to have large "swimming pools", which contain fresh water. Seal hunters used to use them for fresh water in the olden days. For somebody living and studying artic such pools are propably intresting at first but then obvious and not worth reporting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:33AM (#16152018)
    teach polar bears how to operate arctic toll booths
  • by Inverted Intellect (950622) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:33AM (#16152020)
    But it could have some chilling consequences.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by suzerain (245705)
      I think the consequences will be more 'warming' than 'chilling'.
      • 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...
        • by slysithesuperspy (919764) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:55AM (#16152375)
          In fact, we build our houses out of bricks, while Americans rebuild their wooden houses every year after the hurricane season!
          • You insensitive clod!
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by squiggleslash (241428)

            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 latte

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by novus ordo (843883)
        Melting is an endothermic reaction, cooling the air as it melts. You can say that it's absorbing the extra energy that the planet is gaining and acting as a shock absorber. However, once that is gone and Antartica(who is going to claim it?) it is anyone's guess what will happen. Humans are pretty adapt at changing environment, but history shows [wikipedia.org] that many species aren't.
  • 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.

    • 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?

      Russia has plenty of oil and methane, perhaps they could export it to North America that way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bmo (77928)
      You said: "this article about Pat Broe,"

      In the article:

      "territory is determined by how far a nation's continental shelf extends into the sea. Under the treaty, countries have limited time after ratifying it to map the sea floor and make claims."

      Is that why the Danes and Canadians were facing off in the Arctic?

      Things make more sense now, with regards to that bit of insanity.

      --
      BMO
  • 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 violet16 (700870) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:52AM (#16152068)
      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.

      I think it's safe to say that humankind is a temporary feature.

    • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:56AM (#16152085) Homepage
      "something that hasn't been possible during most of recorded human history."

      This is not quite correct. There is an object in the Arctic ocean which is known as the "Great Siberian Polynya". It is a wide space of open water which is usually open even in mid-winter and starts somewhere in the middle of the icefields above the east end of the Barents sea and goes east-north-east from there. Its actual position and size varies year on year. While it has never been all the way to the north pole its north-eastern edge in some years has been only a few hundred kilometers away from it. Enough for a conventional icebreaker or even a reinforced ship to try to make a break for it. Similarly its south-western edge in some years has been very close to the open waters of the Barents (though not as far west as Spitzbergen).

      By the way, Russians have considered using this phenomenon for shipping in the soviet times and even did a few trial runs of convoys lead by Arctica class icebreakers through it (you still have to get to the Polynya and back from it across the ice fields). They abandoned it at the end. While it proved possible to run shipping in the ocean even in midwinter the shipments could not be moved further inland due to the lack of powerfull enough river icebreakers. The project was postponed till the first nuclear river icebreakers come on line. These were complete at about the time when the Soviet union fell apart and at that point nobody cared about centrally operated and organised super-shipping so they are sitting in Murmansk collecting rust.

    • 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 bmo (77928) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:19AM (#16152282)
        "We can extract ice cores and easily date the layers."

        No, actually, we can't. You're thinking _ANTARCTIC_ ice layers, not Arctic. Arctic ice is _sea ice_ and as sea ice, it melts and refreezes and it _moves_ all over the damn place.

        Arctic sea ice oscillates twice a day.

        "Contrary to historical observations, sea ice in the high Arctic undergoes very small, back and forth movements twice a day, even in the dead of winter. It was once believed ice deformation at such a scale was almost non-existent."

        http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/2004/107.cfm [nasa.gov]

        And there are larger circulations at work, too.

        http://nsidc.org/seaice/processes/circulation.html [nsidc.org]

        And ice cores? The ice at the Arctic was 9 feet thick _at its thickest parts_ back in 1958. Just where are you going to get ice cores?

        "http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/prrl/prrl9935.html"

        "the rate of change is unprecedented"

        Prove it. You just pulled that statement _right out of your behind_.

        The rate is unprecedented, because _nobody has measured it before_. We've only been measuring since 1958. We don't know if this is a long term cycle or not. There's _not enough data_. Using your thought process, the "Little Ice Age" was "unprecedented"
          too, and were that happening today, you'd be screaming about how we're all going to die because we'll all freeze to death.

        I stand by my statements, as they're backed up by fact. Your post, however, certainly _is_ handwaving.

        --
        BMO
        • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:01AM (#16152382) Homepage Journal
          You're thinking _ANTARCTIC_ ice layers, not Arctic. Arctic ice is _sea ice_ and as sea ice, it melts and refreezes and it _moves_ all over the damn place.

          You are right, I was thinking of Antarctic ice, sloppy of me. However, there are other ways. We can for instance find geological evidence from lake bed sediment cores [guardian.co.uk].

          And ice cores? The ice at the Arctic was 9 feet thick _at its thickest parts_ back in 1958. Just where are you going to get ice cores?

          Greenland [bbc.co.uk], for instance. I know they are not the same, but as an indicator of the climate of the area it is an indicator, right?

          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). Even before this latest evidence came, many scientists were warning that the north pole could disappear completely during northern hemisphere summertime before the end of this century. And this is something that hasn't happened for along time. See for instance polar bears [polarbears...tional.org] who need sea ice to hunt for seals. They evolved probably around 200 000 years ago.

          Even the Economist, who have been global warming deniers for years recently admitted that global warming was real and was going to have severe environemental and economic impact [economist.com]. You don't find this alarming?
          • 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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by JaJ_D (652372)

          "We can extract ice cores and easily date the layers."



          No, actually, we can't. You're thinking _ANTARCTIC_ ice layers, not Arctic. Arctic ice is _sea ice_ and as sea ice, it melts and refreezes and it _moves_ all over the damn place.


          Just to clarify further, since the ice has melted over the passage way it would be damned hard to get an ice core ;-]


          Jaj
    • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:31AM (#16152162)
      >1. So it happened earlier in recorded human history?
      >2. There was technology throughout most of human history that recorded Arctic ice cover?
      Haven't you heard of diaries?
      Mar 4th 1437
      Still cold and boring. Caught breakfast. Fish again. Went for a walk to warm up. Noticed a bit of a crack in the ice and followed that for a while. Bumped into a big pole sticking out the ground. WTF? Some gnarly guy nearby said 'That'll be the North one, sonny.' Maybe someone hammered the pole in too hard and it cracked the ice? Walked back home. Fish for supper.

      If that's not evidence, I don't know what is.
    • by devonbowen (231626) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:10AM (#16152267) Homepage
      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.

      You do realize that continents move around, right? Plate techtonics and all that. Canada, for example, used to be on the equator.

      Devon

    • by ninewands (105734) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @07:35AM (#16152454)
      Quoth the poster:
      Oh yeah, in geological terms, human history is less than the blink of an eye.

      True.

      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.

      Regarding tropical weather in Northern Canada ... think plate tectonics and continental drift ... there used to be tropical weather in what is now northern Ellesmere Island because that patch of land was on the equator in Devonian times. :P

      It would be more accurate to say that ice-free poles are a very transient feature of earth. IIRC, earth's orbit is pretty far out in the sun's liquid water zone and ice ages are more common than warm stages in our climatic history.
  • by phatvw (996438) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:44AM (#16152046)
    I did a Google search for other articles on this topic, and nobody has the actual satellite images, just a bunch of lame pictures of *small* icebergs from 2003? I can just see all the Al Gore propaganda jokes tomorrow...

    But seriously if you're going to write an article at least post the images. Even Discovery Channel didn't have a good image and they are usually all about the pictures!
  • Polemic (Score:5, Funny)

    by ian_mackereth (889101) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:53AM (#16152077) Journal
    We'll know that global warming has really taken hold when there's a clear-water path to the South Pole!

  • One of the strangest anomalys of Global warming is that Europe's warm 'Mediterranean' climate is a result of the Gulf Stream, and the position of the Gulf Stream is a side effect of fresh water flows off of the arctic ice cap. If the arctic ice cap continues to shrink, the Gulf Stream could disapper, and so...
    Global Warming could cause Europe to freeze over.

    Say goodbye to warm Riviera Summers.

  • 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.
  • by hyfe (641811) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @05:36AM (#16152175)
    U.S., Canada, Russia and the EU
    Not to mention, Norway!

    Too small to mention, heh? I'll let you know we've never lost a single war against Russia nor the U.S... and we seriously intend to keep the record perfect!

    • by myowntrueself (607117) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:13AM (#16152276)
      A people who can actually *eat* lutefisk need fear no invaders...

      (My theory on lutefisk is that it originates from an ancient Viking recipe for cleaning dried blood from weapons and armor... then one day a bored and drunken Nord tried eating it and didn't die)
      • 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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by BigCheese (47608)
          I think we can safely categorize lutefisk as a WMD.

          A friend of mine in high school had a Norwegian grandfather. His mother made lutefisk for him one christmas and their cat hid for days.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Not to mention, Norway!

      Forget Norway!

      Kenyaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:03AM (#16152247) Journal
    The North Atlantic Ocean can be a dangerous place, as anyone who can recall the fate of the Titanic will know, and the North Atlantic is thousands of miles from the pole. Just because the sea ice has broken up to the point that there are open stretches of water to the pole, does not mean that those waters are in any way navigable by your typical container or cargo vessels as icebergs and submerged ice litter the area. Perhaps in a few more decades the ice will have retreated enough to permit safe passage, but if anyone thinks Richard Branson could just whistle his yatch up the open waters to the pole needs a reality check.
  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:19AM (#16152283)
    at least one of the farging photos - albeit a bit touched up - here it is
    http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/envisat/ASAR-A MSR_2006_H.jpg [esa.int]
    The non-red area near the pole (indicated by the black circle in the middle of the photo) is the concern, since it represents pack ice (and water) rather than solid ice
  • by Timberwolf0122 (872207) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @06:41AM (#16152339) Journal
    So a huge fuck-off crack appears in the pole and the first response is not hey! how do we fix it, no, it's hey I want dibbs on trade routes.

    This! This! is why I want to vote communist!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thundersnatch (671481)

      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 beh

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:43AM (#16152972)
    For centuries your European explorers searched in vain for a Northwest Passage [wikipedia.org] to China. They eventually had to give up and admit failure.

    But now, thanks to good old Yankee know-how, we have created one for you. Long-dreamed of commercial trade oppertunties have been opened to you! No, no, there's no reason to thank us. Really. It was our pleasure.

    If there's anything else you need that can be accomplished via massive greed, sloth, and lack of self-awareness, don't hesitate to ask us.
  • by DavidHumus (725117) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:15AM (#16153196)
    ...keep fingers over eyes and in ears and keep saying
    La la la - I can't hear you...
  • 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.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

Working...