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Arctic melting: legendary waterway “floats” out of the ice
By Chine Review News Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
November 1, 2013


Source: http://www.chinareviewnews.com   2012-09-09 09:39:22 


The Canadian Arctic scientists Barbados and Matthew in 2009 witnessed the scene. "We were going to board a piece of floating ice. Suddenly, waves surged over and a whole piece of floating ice was raised by the waves to the top. I saw it split into many some 100-meter-long pieces of ice."


The North Pole is melting.


The Beijing News reported that in August this year, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that the Arctic ice cap has shrunk to only 4.1 million square kilometers, the lowest summer ice coverage over the past 30 years. Scientists predict that a summer Arctic with absolutely no ice is likely to occur in 20 years or even shorter time. The ice melting speed in Arctic summer is amazing, and this year may be the year of breaking through the bottom line.


"We are only one quarter of the way from a summer Arctic with completely no ice," said Louis Fortier, a researcher at the University of Quebec, Canada, Ravel.


If one day, the summer Arctic has no ice at all, what will the world become? The reality and scientific research have already provided the answer for the future.


Reasons: hurricanes have intensified melting


The main reasons why this year the ice is so low are global warming and hurricanes.


On August 5 this year, a very intense hurricane hit the Arctic Circle.


The hurricane brought heat at the lower latitudes to the North Pole and disturbed the Arctic seawater that has many levels; the warm water at the bottom was brought up to the sea level and exacerbated the melting of the crushed ice that is drifting.


The hurricane also brought destruction to the physical level of the Arctic. Previously, Arctic seawater was under the protection of the thick ice accumulated over the years. But now, this layer of protective membrane is gone. The powerful hurricane causes strong waves and can easily break ice floes. When the packed ice area becomes smaller, the easier the ice will melt. The hurricane also blows away more clouds so that more of the sun's heat can radiate to the Arctic ice.


The fundamental reason that exacerbates the ice melting of the Arctic summer is still global warming. A new study published in Environmental Research Letters (《環境研究通訊》) shows that du to the greenhouse gas emissions from 1979 to 2010, the Arctic ice was reduced by 70%. The amount of Arctic ice melting is much higher than predicted by the institutes of the atmospheric sciences.


Shipping: legendary waterway “floats” out of the ice


The North Pole without ice in the short term is not all harmful. In fact, some responsive business people have sniffed out new business opportunities. For example, there is the previously existed legendary Northwest Passage.


This waterway is located in the Canadian Arctic, which links the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and also connects Asia and Europe. If this waterway is available, it can reduce the distance from Asia to Europe to one-third. However, in the past 6000 - 8500 years, this route is ice-covered.


In 1610, the English navigator Henry Hudson with a lifetime searched for the Northwest Passage without success. In 1905, after drilling hard for two years, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen finally carved out a narrow Northwest Passage. In 2007, the European Space Agency announced that the Northwest Passage once filled with ice became for the first time unobstructed. According to NASA satellite data, this year the key part of the Northwest Passage no longer has ice. The Northwest Passage may become a routine fairway earlier than people expected.


Shipping companies soon began exploring. In 2006, a cruise ship with the help of the satellite monitoring successfully sail through the Northwest Passage. In 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasted news of the first successful commercial vessel crossing the Northwest Passage.


There have been experts of the communication cables proposing the laying of fiber optic cable between Tokyo and London through the Northwest Passage, which can halve the communication time.


Climate: permafrost turns into chronic time bomb


Almost ten thousand years ago, the Arctic had also had a large number of organisms. After the arrival of the ice age, these dead creatures evolved into rich organic carbon and quietly stored inside the permafrost, which today accounts for a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere permafrost area.


As global warming causes the permafrost melts, huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere. They may bring risks to some highways and oil pipelines in the northern hemisphere, and even lead to crisis like explosions, etc. In the long run, they will exacerbate the already severe global warming.


The estimated Arctic permafrost contains organic carbon content of up to 1.6 million tons, which is equivalent to one-third of all the carbon content of the global soil, and twice of the carbon content of the atmosphere.


According to this study, it is expected that within this century, there will be 10 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Plus methane emissions, it is equivalent to 270 times of annual human carbon dioxide emissions.


It is predicted that the carbon stored in northern Earth, if released, will be able to make the global temperature rise by 10 degrees Celsius or higher. This could make the global climate completely out of control and bring a devastating blow to the human civilization. University of Florida scientist Edward Shuur said that this is some form of chronically ticking time bomb.


Summer Arctic without ice could bring global disaster that is fatal.


Resources: "Gold Rush" emerging from under the ice surface


In addition to the shipping company, the Arctic Circle also seems to quickly become the new place on Earth for gold rush.


The Arctic has a lot of oil, gas and mineral resources. Its change naturally attracts countries that are lack of resources.


According to a study released by the journal Science in 2009, the world's untapped gas and oil have respectively thirty and thirteen percent in the Arctic; but previously, these resources are covered by a thick layer of ice and difficult for mining.


In August of this year, Shell fell into an embarrassing controversy in the Arctic drilling. They plan to drill two wells in the Alaska Arctic ocean. Although this plan still faces problems like approval and equipment sources, etc., the company firmly believes that this plan can be completed.


Ecology: flowers blossom in warm summer and birds move north


Changes in the Arctic may also make part of the northerly Earth to become further full of life and greener.


Currently in the summer, the permafrost of Siberia and other places begin thawing. Some local lakes become several times larger than normal. Areas over the years survive in the harsh environment, such as Canada, Siberia, the Scandinavia region and Alaska, etc., will become more suitable for human habitation in the summer.


Certain organisms and people will benefit. Because polar bears eat marine organisms, their food sources will increase because sea will become expanded. In addition, some terrestrial organisms and birds may migrate toward warmer Arctic; plants that had never grown here will begin to grow. In the future, the summer Arctic may become a place full of life and where flowers blossom.

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