When will Arctic Become Navigable? - 16 December, 2002

Scientists expect this will happen already by the end of this century

NASA researchers conclude the eternal sea ice in Arctic Zone is thawing faster than it was supposed before – approximately by 9 percent every 10 years. If the parameters remain the same within several more dozens of years, the eternal sea ice in Arctic will probably fully disappear within this century because of temperature rise and interaction between ice, ocean, and atmosphere, which accelerate the process of thaw.

The eternal sea ice does not thaw even in summer, while drifting in polar oceans, even when ice cap is minimal because of season factor. The thickness of non-thawing ice makes on average 3 metres, while sometimes it reaches 7 metres.

Researchers noticed that Arctic average temperature rises 1.2 degree Celsius every ten years.

The thawing sea ice will not seriously influence the world ocean level, though it could make for bloom of plankton, cause changes in summer sea navigation in Northern Ice Ocean, in ocean waters overturn and in climate. If northern eternal ice vanishes, the climate and ecology of Arctic will seriously change.
The thawing process is expected to quicken because of chain reaction effect of feedback system between ice, ocean, and atmosphere. As temperature in Arctic increases, ice thaws sooner, while releasing a bigger square of open waters which more actively absorb solar heat and increase the temperature, which the more furthers the thawing process. It will continue till the whole ice melts. Warmer water could delay coming winter in Arctic, and at the same time it will further sooner ice thawing and coming spring. Therefore, sea ice more easily thaws next summer.

Moreover, increasing summer temperatures in Arctic by 1.2 degrees Celsius every 10 years could make summer season longer, which, therefore, will make ice thinner.

According to the data of 1990-2000 research, which was compared with that ones of 1979-1989, the most active ice thawing was registered in the west area of Northern Ice Ocean and in Chukchi Sea. Considerable ice losses were also registered in East Siberia, in the Laptevs Sea, and in Karsk Sea. Moreover, eternal ice receded from Greenland Island.

In the nearest future, ice diminution in Arctic could open new navigation lines. The main profits belong to Russia which posses the biggest part of sea lines of Arctic and the shortest ways from Europe to Asia and Pacific shore of the US and Canada.

Ice thawing could also further plankton bloom in Northern Ice Ocean and increasing number of fish and other sea animals which would come here from warm latitudes. The only minus would be tangible for polar bears who could lose its traditional dwelling areas and be forced to get over to the continent or just to die out like species.

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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Author`s name Margarita Kicherova