12.02.2005 | Global warming 'worst-case scenario' realized

This NASA photo shows the minimum extent of the arctic ice cap in September 2005. The yellow line shows the cap's normal size.

As Tropical Storm Epsilon, the season's record 26th named storm, reached hurricane strength today (a hurricane in December?), another effect of global warming is being realized further to the North. Meet Canada's arctic waters, which are steadily being melted by rising arctic temperatures that are rising twice as fast as the average in the rest of the world. Together with the New Scientist report that the Gulf Stream current is slowing due to melting glacial waters, it's clear that the effects of global warming are upon us.

Arctic temperatures are expected to rise significantly by the end of the century, according to experts, which will melt even more glaciers.

"What we are seeing in the Arctic, and what we are seeing further south with the hurricanes, are the most pessimistic models of global warming," said Louis Fortier, an oceanographer who has just returned from an expedition to the region on the Canadian research vessel Amundsen.

Lasserre predicted that within 30 years it would probably be possible for ships not normally equipped for the Arctic to tackle the Northwest passage.

About 20-30 ships currently take it each summer now.

Melting in the Arctic is getting so bad that, according to this same article, the U.S. and Canada may be about to enter into a territorial dispute. Canada wants, and has claimed since 1986, jurisdiction over its northern waters to be able to enforce shipping regulations like environmental protections and safety training. The U.S., on the other hand, argues that any waters between two oceans are international waters.

Ironically, the melting of ice in the arctic will make it easer to access oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean, so we'll be able to burn even more oil to raise global temepratures even further to be able to melt more ice and find... more oil. There's also one reserve in the Arctic that is split by the Yukon-Alaska border between the U.S. and Canada, setting up the scene for yet another territorial dispute. Canada had better get its hands on a decent military, and fast.

Update (12/5/05): Arctic feels the heat from climate change – Reuters article on roughly the same subject, with a Canadian biologist pointing out a sharper than expected decrease in the extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap.

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