Canadian NW Passage open to navigation in summer months

The Guardian reports, 12th February 2016: For centuries, explorers have sought to navigate the Northwest Passage — a shortcut from Europe to Asia that wouldn’t require sailing around the southern extremes of Africa or South America. For much of that time, the idea was something between a flight of fancy and a dangerously unapproachable challenge. Many have died making the attempt.

Twenty-one years ago, in the summer of 1994, a 57-foot fibre-glass sailboat named Cloud Nine set sail, with captain Roger Swanson at the helm. Cloud Nine carried a crew of six, who were attempting to transit the fabled Northwest Passage from east to west. There was a tremendous amount of pack ice choking off all the routes through the Passage that summer, and the crew of Cloud Nine was forced to abandon the voyage and retreat out of the Arctic.

Thirteen years later, in the summer of 2007, Cloud Nine returned to the Arctic for another east-to-west attempt. This time around, the crew of six discovered little to no ice in the Northwest Passage. To the astonishment of those on board and of those watching their transit, the nearly 7000-mile voyage took only 73 days, and Cloud Nine never touched one piece of ice.

The reliable deep cold of the polar regions is part of what gives us a stable climate system: with extreme cold at the poles, the warmer climate bands of lower latitudes are more stable and defined. That defined differentiation of climate bands keeps the Polar Vortex swirling in the Arctic. Cold reinforces cold, which keeps the climate bands steady.

As the Arctic warms, the warmer air mixes more readily with the climate of lower latitudes, and the Polar Vortex “bleeds” into those other latitudes, bringing deep Arctic winter to more temperate regions.

This is climate destabilisation.

NASA’s Earth-observing satellites monitor polar ice cover, among other vital signs. In summer 2007, when Cloud Nine transited the Northwest Passage, NASA satellites showed the Passage entirely free of ice.

In the 13 short years between those two sailing expeditions to the far north, there had been a forty-percent loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That is a 40% loss of our North Polar ice cap. This change is happening outside of Earth’s natural and geological cycles. Human activity is having a profound and sudden impact on our planetary climate systems and the Arctic is experiencing the most rapid and visible change.

Source: The Guardian, 12th February 2016. For the full story, see

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