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Will the Opening of the Northwest Passage Transform Global Shipping Anytime Soon?

With the melting of Arctic Ocean ice, the fabled waterway between Europe and Asia has been open to shipping the past two summers--or has it?
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GOING WITH THE FLOE:

Here is one of the buoys that Bruno Tremblay deploys on the ice in the Canadian archipelago. Instruments like this send hourly data on their location via satellites to Tremblay. These ice mass balance buoys also measure internal ice temperature, ice thickness and position as well as, in future, internal stresses in the ice that tell scientists how much stress it can take before it starts to break.....[ More ]

ICE BUOYS:

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STILL AN ICY DRINK:

Despite rapid warming in the Arctic Ocean, one of the reasons the Northwest Passage won't be safe for ships anytime soon is the stubborn persistence of thick multiyear ice in the area. These maps show the presence of multiyear ice in the area over the month of September.....[ More ]

LIQUID HIGHWAY:

Despite this past summer being the second-lowest on record for sea ice cover in the Arctic, the most direct route through the passage remained dotted with ice floes. This satellite image from mid-August 2008 shows the direct route through the Northwest Passage as a solid orange line.....[ More ]

MASSIVE MELTDOWN:

Arctic sea ice cover reached its minimum extent on September 14 2008 [ see image ]. The average sea ice cover for the month of September was 1.80 million square miles (4.67 million square kilometers).....[ More ]

PRIMEVAL PASSAGE:

Although the northern route through the Northwest Passage has only opened twice since records have been kept, research suggests that it did become passable from time to time in the last 10,000 years. ....[ More ]

STRAIT THROUGH:

Here is a satellite image of the McClure Strait, which lies along the direct northern route through the Northwest Passage. This section of the passage is normally clogged with ice, hindering transits through the area by smaller vessels.....[ More ]

NORTHERN EXPOSURE:

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage (orange line) opened up last year. (The path which did not clear, is depicted by the blue line.) As opposed to the other, more southern, routes through the passage, this northern one is more direct and deeper, making it attractive to freighters in search of a shortcut between Europe and Asia.....[ More ]

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