Saturday, September 15, 2007
Arctic ice loss: Northwest Passage now open, says space agency
PARIS (AFP) - The Northwest Passage, the dreamed-of yet historically impassable maritime shortcut between Europe and Asia, has now fully opened up due to record shrinkage of Arctic sea ice, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.
It released a mosaic of images, taken in early September by a radar aboard its Envisat satellite, which showed that ice retreat in the Arctic had reached record levels since satellite monitoring began in 1978.
"We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around three million square kilometres (1.158 million square miles), which is about one million square kilometres (386,000 sq. miles) less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006," said Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Centre.
"There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100 000 sq. km. (38,600 sq. miles) per year on average, so a drop of one million sq. km. (386,000 sq. miles) in just one year is extreme."