Melting Arctic enables new tourist routes

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Polar
Might the northwest passage someday become a busy shipping lane? Might the northwest passage someday become a busy shipping lane? JennyT
03 May
2016
Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This month, Marco Magrini looks at the future of sea levels

This summer, a 1,700-person cruise ship will navigate where no tourist has ever dared. Crystal Cruises’ Serenity will connect Alaska to New York City, through the gelid waters of the legendary Northwest Passage. The voyage, already sold-out, comes courtesy of climate change.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, Arctic sea ice was at a record low yet again in 2015. Ice extent usually increases through winter, peaks in March then shrinks to its minimum by September. The September Arctic minimum sounded a first alarm in 2005, later breaking records in 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015. The latest data from NASA confirms that February 2016, with 1.35 degrees Celsius above the long term-average, was the most unusually warm month ever measured globally. The Arctic was hit the most. A team of climatologists at Rutgers University, has estimated that more than half of the 13.8cm of sea level rise recorded in the past century resulted from global warming effects. ‘The 20th century rise was extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries,’ the researchers say. In Antarctica, ice melting is now projected to contribute, by 2100, to a sea level rise that is double that previously thought.

The 20th century sea level rise was extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries

The oceans are not only our clear-sounding alarm bell, they are also our saviours. They regulate the climate. At least a quarter of man-made carbon emissions are absorbed by seas, mitigating the effects of global warming. Problem is, the extra carbon intake makes oceans more acidic. Carbonic acid makes calcium unavailable for building shells or skeletons posing a threat to oysters, clams, lobsters and even plankton, the building block for the underwater food chain.

Climate change is projected to grow unabated and the seas are in trouble of oceanic proportions. If Roald Amundsen’s 1906 expedition through the Passage was to be cheered as a symbol of human progress, the inauguration of a northwestern cruising route is, for the opposite reason, to be mourned.

This was published in the May 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

A study of various fish populations has found dramatic reductions…

Geophoto

The seasonal changes of September promise much photographic potential for…

Oceans

Shipping traffic can increase lightning strikes, according to a pioneering…

Polar

New documentary travels to remote Antarctica to unpack the complex…

Oceans

The deaths of these majestic creatures had remained an unsolved…

Wildlife

Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or…

Wildlife

As part of New Zealand’s plan to cull millions of…

Oceans

A project to map the ocean floor is raising concerns…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

Dismay as a Spanish baby dolphin becomes the latest victim…

Polar

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Oceans

The effect of plastics on the world’s oceans is posing…

Geophoto

Camera technology may have come a long way since the…

Energy

The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn…

Wildlife

Despite their high profiles, most of the world’s national animal…

Oceans

Asian countries are pledging to reduce the amount of land-based…

Geophoto

There’s a world of visual wonder beneath the waves but…

Energy

A short, summer eclipse in America has solar power generators…

Climate

A dramatic increase in dust storms across the western United…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…