From Jeff Masters:
The Northwest Passage–the legendary shipping route through ice-choked Canadian waters at the top of the world–melted free of ice last week, and is now open for navigation, according to satellite mosaics available from the National Snow and Ice Data Center and The University of Illinois Cryosphere Today.
This summer marks the fourth consecutive year–and fourth time in recorded history–that the fabled passage has opened for navigation.
Over the past four days, warm temperatures and southerly winds over Siberia have also led to intermittent opening of the Northeast Passage, the shipping route along the north coast of Russia through the Arctic Ocean. It is now possible to completely circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean in ice-free waters, and this will probably be the case for at least a month.
This year marks the third consecutive year–and the third time in recorded history–that both the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage have melted free, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The Northeast Passage opened for the first time in recorded history in 2005, and the Northwest Passage in 2007.
It now appears that the opening of one or both of these northern passages is the new norm, and business interests are taking note–commercial shipping in the Arctic is on the increase, and there is increasing interest in oil drilling. The great polar explorers of past centuries would be astounded at how the Arctic has changed in the 21st century.
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