Northwest Passage may be ice-free soon

Aug. 3, 2008 at 11:07 PM
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Northwest Passage may become ice-free for the second summer in a row, scientists monitoring the situation say.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center say a chunk of Arctic ice larger than the state of Texas is melting away in the Beaufort Sea, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday. Strong, southerly winds are to blame, they said.

By the end of the summer, the region's Arctic ice pack will be near its lowest measurement on record, the newspaper said.

So far, the sea is open more than a third of the way from Alaska to the North Pole, a bigger area than last year, and the Northwest Passage is clear of ice from Amundsen Gulf to the Alaska-Canadian border, satellite images reveal. There's still ice between Banks and Cornwallis islands, center scientists say.

"But we're seeing signs that the ice concentration is dropping there now," Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the center said Thursday. "That plug could very well melt out in the next few weeks."

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