For the first time in recorded human history, the Arctic has become an island to itself, completely separate from the landmasses that the Arctic ice normally stretches out onto. This distressingly historic event has been captured by NASA satellites, depicting both the Northwest and Northeast passages as ice free.
For the past few years we have seen the Arctic ice sheet melt, dropping to lower and lower levels. And though we haven’t seen the 2008 melt season drop below 07’s record numbers, the ice has melted in such a way that now the Arctic has become an island.
The Telegraph quoted Professor Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US, as saying that the Arctic may have entered a “death spiral” caused by global warming.
Already shipping companies are making plans to cut thousands of miles of their sea-bound journeys. And Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that ships intending on passing through the Northwest Passage must first report to the Canadian government.
The images have been gathered by NASA, who continually monitors the space around Earth, but Earth itself. The images show that the Northwest Passage opened last weekend, and the last impediment on the east side melted a few days later.
This is having a direct influence on the wildlife as well. Late August saw reports of nine polar bears swimming in open ocean off Alaska’s northwest coast, in the Chuckchi Sea. Many of the polar bears, as well as some walruses, were swimming north and ranged from 15 to 65 miles offshore.
Intriguing side-note; the Chuckchi Sea is where people like Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin are hoping to drill for oil. That wouldn’t hurt the polar bears chances of survival, would it?
Image Credit NASA
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