NASA Earth Observatory shows Arctic sea ice retreating

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New images acquired by NASA show that Arctic sea ice is melting at an astounding pace – particularly in the Parry Channel, which is part of the famous Northwest Passage. The recent photos have many scientists scrutinizing the environmental and geopolitical impacts of climate change in the polar region.

The images below were acquired via NASA’s Terra satellite. They show significant changes over a two week period. The top image shows Parry Channel on July 17, 2012 when ice filled the channel. The bottom image shows the same region on August 3, when some ice was still clinging to the shores of Victoria and Melville Islands. But open water otherwise dominated the region.

These photos show a large swath of open water in early August, though patches of ice linger south of Melville Island. Walt Meier is with the National Snow and Ice Data Center. He warns that while the Parry Channel appears mostly free of ice, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily open for navigational purposes. Sea ice is often thin enough to avoid detection via satellite – yet it’s still thick enough to get in the way of traveling ships. Regardless of whether ships can easily pass, recent studies have suggested that certain objects are now taking advantage of the open waters.

The Northwest Passage is a sea route that runs through the Arctic Ocean. It travels along the northern coast of North America via waterways near the Canadian Arctic Archipelago — and ultimately connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The passage opened in 2007. That was the year alarm bells rang around the world, due to a sudden and unprecedented thaw in Arctic sea ice.

The Northwest Passage is significant because it symbolizes historical attempts to find a shortcut between Europe and Asia. Ever since the late fifteenth century, explorers have been cutting across the Arctic to get between both continents. The passage was first successfully navigated by Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen between 1903 and 1906.

July 17 2012

Arctic Sea Ice

August 13 2012

Arctic Sea Ice Retreating

July 17 2012

Arctic Sea Ice Retreating

August 13 2012

Arctic Sea Ice Retreating

4 thoughts on “NASA Earth Observatory shows Arctic sea ice retreating”

  1. “Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.”
    Seventh Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1907

    “We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted…So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.”
    “Arbor Day – A Message to the School-Children of the United States” April 15, 1907

    “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”
    Confession of Faith Speech, Progressive National Convention, Chicago, IL, August 6, 1912

    “Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the ‘the game belongs to the people.’ So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”
    A Book-Lover’s Holidays in the Open, 1916

    “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”


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