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North East passage opening up early this summer?

Yacht Peter I seeking a passage through the ice (2010)

Yacht Peter I seeking a passage through the ice (2010)

The North-East passage, the sea route that goes along the northern coast of Russia, looks as if it will be free of ice at a very early stage this summer, according to scientists from Germany’s AWI, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Towards the end of last winter, the scientists found large areas of the Laptev Sea covered by ice which was only a maximum of 50 cm thick. This, they say, is unlikely to last long once the summer sun comes out. Previous measurements in 2007/2008 had recorded ice thicknesses of up to a metre around the same place . Dr. Thomas Krumpen, the expedition leader, said the team has been surprised by the measurements, taken by a special ice-depth sensor dangled from a helicopter. Dr. Krumpen says the wind is probably responsible. When the wind is blowing from land out on to the sea, it forces the pack ice from the Laptev Sea northwards. This leaves open areas of water at the coast, which cool out fast and form thin ice. But the scientists were not previously aware that the areas could be this big. In some places they flew a good 400 kilometres over thin ice. The team want to use the measurements to calibrate satellite data.

More information on the AWI website, but I’m afraid the English version of this story doesn’t seem to be available yet.






June 8, 2012 | 2:42 pm



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