Sea ice in the Arctic is still too thick for Northwest Passage commercial shipping route in spite of warming temperatures. This is according to new research from York University.
Despite climate change, Arctic sea ice remains too thick and treacherous, says the study, “Ice Thickness in the Northwest Passage,” published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on September 25, 2015.
Scientists with York University carried out electromagnetic ice thickness surveys during April and May in 2011 and 2015 to measure the thickness of sea ice over the Northwest Passage — “a system of gulfs, straits, sounds, and channels in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago connecting the Beaufort Sea in the west with Baffin Bay in the east,” according to researchers.
Professor of Geophysics at the Lassonde School of Engineering Christian Haas said: “While everyone only looks at ice extent or area, because it is so easy to do with satellites, we study ice thickness, which is important to assess overall changes of ice volume, and helps to understand why and where the ice is most vulnerable to summer melt.”
The Northwest Passage is a sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
In the past, the Northwest Passage has been virtually impassable because it was covered by thick, year-round sea ice.
For commercial shipping, the potential benefits of a clear Northwest Passage are significant. The Northwest Passage is a much shorter route for moving goods between the Pacific and Atlantic regions than the Panama and Suez Canals.
Ship routes from Europe to eastern Asia would be 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) shorter. Alaskan oil could move quickly by ship to ports in the eastern United States. The vast mineral resources of the Canadian North will be much easier and economical to develop and ship to market.