|The Arctic ice extent continues to decline|
Many shipping companies are now starting to see the possibility of using the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific as a option. This year has two German ships took the shortcut from South Korea, along the Siberian coast, to the Atlantic Ocean without the help of icebreakers.
"We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere. The little that remains is jammed up against Canada's Arctic archipelago, far from potential shipping routes." Those are the words of David Barber, director of research for the "Arctic System Science” at the University of Manitoba. He adds that the ice now melts in an "extraordinarily rapid rate." A development that an increasing number of researchers believe will continue and escalate, and finally, by 2030, the North Pole will be ice free during the summer for the first time in several million years.
The Arctic is especially sensitive to climate change and the area warms up three times faster than other parts of the world because of the fact that ice-free water absorbs more solar radiation, which increases water temperature and speeds up the ice melting process further. This effect in turn leads to more cyclones which help generate waves that break up ice sheets and also dump large amounts of snow, which has an insulating effect and prevents the ice sheets from thickening. Overall, the Arctic is now under pressure from two directions, both from solar radiation and from warmer water which inevitably creates a vicious circle.
As the figure below shows the Arctic ice extent has now fallen by more than 20% since 1978.
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