Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

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
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.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby




Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

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...


A look at the contribution of hippos to the savannah…


The new app encourages young children to connect with the…


A type of panel has been invented that can generate…


In the 4th century BC, Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were…


The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management pledges to achieve net…


Earthquakes from time immemorial have attracted the attention of the…


A planned kayaking expedition in Nepal took on a whole…


Scientists from Bristol University are working in conjunction with EDF…


In the 1930s, Charles Richter developed a simple scale for…


Researchers at Colombia University have answered a question that has…


How prepared can any government or city be against a…


Benjamin Hennig creates a series of cartograms to demonstrate the…


Could grey seals singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star help develop…


Deep sea expert Dr Alex Rogers explains the importance of…


Analysis of coral cores, extracted from coral reefs in the…


Celebrities and animal welfare groups have been expressing their disappointment…


In a series of photographs from his recent trip to…