Thursday, September 21, 2006

Vacation Plans

If only Shackleton had waited a hundred years.

If you're interested in something fun, why not try sailing to the North Pole?
European scientists voiced shock today as they viewed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole.

The satellite images were acquired from August 23 to 25 by instruments aboard Envisat and EOS Aqua, two satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Perennial sea ice – thick ice that is normally present year-round and is not affected by the Arctic summer – had disappeared over an area bigger than the British Isles, ESA said.

Vast patches of ice-free sea stretched north of Svalbard, an archipelago lying midway between Norway and the North Pole, and extended deep into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole, the agency said in a press release.

"This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low-ice seasons," said Mark Drinkwater of ESA's Oceans/Ice Unit.

"It is highly imaginable that a ship could have passed from Spitzbergen or Northern Siberia through what is normally pack ice to reach the North Pole without difficulty."

Spitzbergen is one of the Svalbard islands, which are Norwegian.

"If this anomaly continues, the Northeast Passage – or Northern Sea Route between Europe and Asia – will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10 to 20 years," Drinkwater said.

The images are for late summer. In the last weeks, what was open water has begun to freeze, as the autumn air temperatures over the Arctic begin to fall, ESA said.

Regular satellite monitoring over the past 25 years shows the northern polar ice cover has shrunk and thinned as global temperatures have risen.

Seriously, something's fucked up here.

Oh, and if you think that article is bleak, try this one on for size.

Then maybe you'll rethink the idea of vacations altogether. As well as long-term investment.

It must be hard to be a climatologist. People always cheer for you to be wrong.

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