The NewsFuror

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ice loss opens Northwest Passage

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage has opened up fully for the first time since records began, the European Space Agency (Esa) says.

Historically, the passage that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic has been ice-bound.

But the agency says ice cover has been steadily shrinking, and this year's drop has made the passage navigable.

The findings - based on satellite images - have raised concerns about the speed of global warming.


The Northwest Passage is one of the most fabled sea routes in the world - a short cut from Europe to Asia through the high Arctic.

Recent years have seen a marked shrinkage in its ice cover, but this year it was extreme, Esa says.

It says this made the passage "fully navigable" for the first time since monitoring began in 1978.
"We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around 3m sq km (1,2 sq miles)," Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Center said.

He said it was "about 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006".

"There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100, 000 sq km (38,600 sq miles) per year on average, so a drop of 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) in just one year is extreme," Mr Pedersen said.

The Northeast Passage through the Russian Arctic has also seen its ice cover shrink and it currently "remains only partially blocked," Esa says.

'Battle for Arctic'

Scientists have linked the changes to global warming which may be progressing faster than expected.

The opening of the sea routes are already leading to international disputes.

Canada says it has full rights over those parts of the Northwest Passage that pass through its territory and that it can bar transit there.

But this has been disputed by the US and the European Union.

They argue new route should be an international strait that any vessel can use.

US hints at bigger Iraq pullout

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has hinted at bigger cuts to troop numbers in Iraq than those approved by President George W Bush.

Mr Gates suggested the current level of more than 160,000 soldiers could be cut to about 100,000 by the end of 2008.

Mr Bush said on Thursday about 30,000 troops might return by next summer.

Mr Gates spoke as a White House report suggested Iraq's government has made little progress in meeting key military and political benchmarks set by the US.

Militants free 11 FC men

BANNU, Sept 14: Militants in North Waziristan released 11 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary on Friday.The personnel had been kidnapped after Sept 11 midnight from a checkpoint in Azad Mandi area.

The freed personnel said here that they had been treated well by the militants, but their weapons and badges were not returned.

They said they had to surrender because the militants had besieged their checkpoint.