Changing conditions in the far north have sparked excitement and unfounded concerns over potential conflict.
Michael Byers, Al Jazeera.com , December 22, 2011
Vancouver, Canada - "For the first time in my life, I'm trying to find ice."
Alex MacIntyre was standing on the bridge of the Akademik Ioffe as the Russian-flagged ice-strengthened cruise ship traversed the Northwest Passage last summer. A Canadian ice-pilot with four decades of Arctic experience, MacIntyre remembers when the route was choked with sea-ice that was 10 to 15 metres thick.
Twenty-two ships sailed through the Northwest Passage in 2011. On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, 34 ships traversed Russia's Northern Sea Route.
The Arctic Ocean, which exists in a precarious balance between ice and water, is more susceptible to climate change than anywhere else on Earth. A so-called "feedback loop" exacerbates the situation: As climate change warms the air and melts the highly reflective ice from above, it exposes more dark ocean water which acts like a solar sponge, absorbing more energy from the sun and melting the remaining ice from below.
For the full text, see: Melting Arctic brings new opportunities