Melting ice opens Northwest Passage

Aug. 9, 2012 at 5:38 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Rapidly melting sea ice has led to the opening of the arctic's Northwest Passage, images taken by NASA's Terra satellite confirm.

While an image captured July 17 showed ice filling the Parry Channel, part of the Passage, a photo taken Aug. 3 showed most of that ice had melted away, reported Thursday.

Ice cover in Parry Channel began to fall below the 30-year median level in mid-July, the Canadian Ice Service reported, and the melting accelerated in the following two weeks.

NASA, in a release, said that while the Parry Channel appears almost entirely free of ice it's not necessarily open for ships to pass through since sea ice too thin to be detected by satellite sensors can still be sufficiently thick to thwart the successful passage of ships.

Centuries of attempts to find a shortcut between Europe and Asia though the arctic failed due to heavy ice until 1906, when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen successfully navigated the Northwest Passage.

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