Arctic Melt Down Could Mean Open Sea Lanes in Five Years

If melting patterns change as predicted, the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer US Navy reports.

Published: 28-Feb-2002

THE Arctic ice cap is melting at a rate that could allow routine commercial shipping through the far north in a decade and open up new fisheries. But a report for the US Navy seen by New Scientist reveals that naval vessels will be unable to police these areas.

It was in 1906, after centuries of attempts, that Roald Amundsen finally navigated the North-West Passage through the sea ice north of Canada. Even today, only specially strengthened ships can make the trip.

But in 10 years' time, if melting patterns change as predicted, the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer. And the Northern Sea Route across the top of Russia could allow shipping for at least two months a year in as little as five years.

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