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
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.

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

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

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...

Oceans

A ship that ran aground early in February has been…

Wildlife

Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…

Geophoto

March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…

Wildlife

An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…

Polar

Despite common belief that Antarctica is vastly uninhabited, humans are…

Wildlife

Javan rhinos survived the recent Krakatoa tsunami, but the species…

Energy

As the world turns away from fossil fuels, one question…

Geophoto

The winners of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2018…

Climate

New legislation in Florida aims to solve various environmental issues,…

Polar

The world’s magnetic model is getting an early update, as…

Climate

Marco Magrini looks at the financial pressures spilling out into the…

Geophoto

Few sights are more dramatic than a star-filled sky at…

Polar

A region of Antarctica previously known for relative stability is…

Tectonics

Everything we thought we knew about eruptions could be wrong

Oceans

Sea levels are rising across the globe, but along the…

Polar

Seismometers buried in the Ross Ice Shelf have revealed that…

Wildlife

A tightening of restrictions on the insecticides known as neonicotinoids…

Wildlife

Bonnethead sharks, the second smallest member of the hammerhead family,…

Nature

There’s more than enough plastic in the world. That’s why,…

Wildlife

The recent discovery of more than 200 million termite mounds…