Will The "Northwest Passage" Become A Major Shipping Route?

A few years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard reported that, for the first time in possibly centuries, the Northwest Passage was free of ice. The fable NW Passage was the dream of mariners…and today, it offers some major shortcuts. for example, from Tokyo to New York City, a ship following the NW Passage would save around 3500 miles, instead of using the Panama Canal. From Far East Ports to Northern Europe (eg Antwerp, Rotterdam, London) the savings are even more (compared to the tans-Pacific route and the Suez Canal.
So, assuming global warming opens up the passage, how long until it beomes a major shipping route…and how long will it take to map out and buoy the route? Are ports along the route (like Barrow, Alaska) likely to boom? How do I learn to be a pilot on the NW Passage?
And, will Canada charge a heft toll to iuse the passage?

Considering that all known ocean ports will be flooded by the rising seas long before sufficient ice is melted to make it safe/practical, the point is moot.

Also, it’s generally accepted that the Earth’s temperature only has to rise by 5 degrees Celsius overall, and then a dreadful thing happens… frozen methane in the ocean floor beds starts to get released - which in turn releases ever more Carbon 12 into the atmosphere.

Carbon 12 is an astonishingly potent greenhouse gas which will raise the Earth’s temperature by yet ANOTHER 5 degrees C, giving a total of 10 degrees C in global temperature rise.

If this happens, we will see the equivalent of the fabled Permean extinction of 250 million years ago when 95% of life as we know it in both the oceans and on land was made extinct.

The Permean Extinction was shitloads more devastating than the Dinosaur Extinction of 65 million years ago. By many orders of magnitude. The massive volcanoes of over thousands of miles in the Siberian Traps set off the Permean Extinction.

So, let us hope and pray that the North West Passage never opens up then, shall we? Because it will be terrible sing of doom in my considered opinion.

At temperatures exceeding 8,720°F, maybe it is. I’d love to know which theory this is a garbled version of. Not those catastrophic methane releases that “may have” wiped out the dinosaurs, is it?

Umm, not. Methane freezes at -183°C, which is far, far below the typical ocean floor temperature of 4°C. Perhaps you’re thinking of methane clathrate hydrate, which does exist at the ocean floor (slightly buried). I would expect, though, that it would take a good 10°C-15°C increase for that stuff to decompose in significant quantities. That would release a lot of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Carbon-12, on the other hand, is just carbon, and isn’t a gas at all (under reasonable conditions).

If it’s only the North Pole that melts, the oceans won’t (shouldn’t) rise at all. There’s that nastly ozone hole in the south, but I’ve not heard anyone claiming that there’s massive melting going on. The would be a problem. Okay, melting in north would be an ecological distaster in anthromorphic ecological terms, but nothing to cause flooding.

The arctic ocean ice is floating and therefore won’t affect sea levels when it melts. And it will, during the summer months, within 100 years. But there will still be stuff causing problems in winter. Perhaps not a year-round shipping channel.

Note that there isn’t much that could be better shipped over the top of Canada. Russia, OTOH is a whole different deal. Draw a great circle from the Alaska oil fields to Western Europe and go “Wow!”. Certain people are drooling big time over shipping North Slope oil to Europe. East Asia (consumer goods) and Western US (grain) to Europe via Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean is also likely to happen.

Small service ports will probably develop on the north side of Russia, but no major transhipment ports are likely for a while. Unless Russia gets off its rear and starts exploiting the natural resources in that area. Don’t hold your breath. It’s Russia.

By the Holy Polyester Toupee of Saint William Shatner, this post is so wrong, in so many ways, it just ain’t funny!
[li]Melting just the North Pole would cause flooding. Whole lotta H2O there, Bubba.[/li][li]Why the fiddle-dee-dee would you assume that only the North Pole would melt?:confused: [/li][li]Hi Opal![/li][li]The ozone layer isn’t connected to global warming in any way.[/li][li]The word anthropomorphic means : “attributing human qualities to inanimate objects, animals or plants”.[/li][/list=1]

Incorrect. If you have ice floating in water, and the ice melts, the water level stays exactly the same. The mass of the ice doesn’t change, and so long as it’s floating, it’s displacing its mass of water. When it melts, it is its mass of water. In other words: All of the ice that’s above the current water level will be added to the oceans, but that ice will also decrease in volume, so the net effect will be zero.

What can cause flooding is the melting of ice that’s not floating. So if the ice melted off of Antarctica, for instance, that would be new water that wasn’t in the oceans before, and sea levels would rise. But there’s no land under the North Pole ice.

However, my understanding Chronos, is that the world’s ocean levels rise with global warming NOT due to frozen ice melting, but RATHER because the sheer body of water which are our oceans actually expand with temperature.

I checked with my dear geologist freind again this morning, in light of the fact that I’ve obviously relayed his knowledge incorrectly and set myself up for some ridicule.

His clearer explanation is thus…

"You mongo, I never said that Carbon 12 was a greenhouse gas. I said that in Greenland, which has the world’s thickest permean era strata of visible rock outcrops, that various detailed analyses of fossil records during the permean strata of said mountain faces uncovered an unusually high spike in Carbon 12 within the fossil records of that period. Now, it’s only a theory because really, nobody knows for sure, but the Permean Extinction seems to have lasted about 80,000 years from beginning to end, and the frist 40,000 years was basically land based extinction primarily due to all the volcanic hydrocarbons released by the massive Siberian volcano range.

But Carbon 12 is just the tell tale trace. It was methane which proved to be the real killer. At about the 40,000 year mark, over a 10,000 year period 95% of all ocean life died off - and the fossiled remains show the timeline in which this happened - and Carbon 12 kept increasing in it’s presence during this time. THen, from the 50-80,000 year mark, the majority of land based life became extinct too.

The theory is that methane deposits within the ocean floor were released during this time due to ocean temperature rises. It’s the methane which seems to have been the killer. Not the Carbon 12, you idiot.

Regards, Chris."

Thanks, but I JUST wanted to know if I shouldinvest in a new shipping line…NW Passage looks like a commercially viable route. Will Barro, AK become a port of call? Any babes in that port for horny sailors?

Nope. Water will not expand appreciably with such a small change in temperature. Ocean levels will rise is snow and ice on land melt and go to the seas.

But Northern Greenland is considered part of the ice cap.

And Northern Alaska, Canada, and Siberia would melt too.

And I reiterate: Why the fiddle-dee-dee would you assume that only the North Pole would melt?

A bit more on methane, global warming, etc.

Boo Boo Foo, if your last post is a direct quote from your friend, I have to point out that he doesn’t quite have the story right.

Yes, the Permian extinction event is the greatest in Earth history, so far as we can determine from the fossil record. However, the jury really is still out on the cause. Current hypotheses (NOT theories, as there is insufficient evidence favoring one scenario over another just now) include major carbon dioxide (not hydrocarbon) outgassing as a by-product of the eruption of the Siberian Traps (actually not a volcano range, but eruption through fissures) and/or a meteor strike, in addition to the gas hydrate destabilization scenario brought up in this thread. I’m not sure where your friend got his time line from, because AFAIK there is no geochronology that can provide a time line with such tight constraints for the extinction event; I would be interested in having a look at the reference if your friend happens to have it handy.

Also, it’s not exactly [sup]12[/sup]C that people look at as a geochemical tracer of the extinction event, but rather the ratio of [sup]12[/sup]C/[sup]13[/sup]C, expressed as a deviation in per mil of [sup]13[/sup]C from standard mean ocean values (del [sup]13[/sup]C). There is a layer of carbonate rock at the stratigraphic level of the extinction event which has some unusual features, among them an unusually low value of [sup]13[/sup]C of about -2 per mil. This value of [sup]13[/sup]C could be accounted for by the mixing of a very light source of carbon (such as methane, which can have del [sup]13[/sup]C values as low as -60 to -100 per mil) with carbon in sea water that has a del [sup]13[/sup]C of approximately 0 per mil. The is not a unique solution though, hence continuing speculation and studies.

Back to the present - Global warming is usually discussed in terms of changes in Earth’s surface temperature, hence the emphasis on melting ice sheets. Destabilization of methane in frozen gas hydrates requires warming of the ocean at depth, which would require a longer response time partly owing to the greater thermal capacity of the oceans (in contrast to the atmosphere), and partly owing to the fact that increasing ocean depths (through the melting of land-based ice) would increase pressure at the sea bottom and temporarily delay the hydrate destabilization process (which is temperature and pressure-dependent).

As sailor mentioned, actual sea level rise is influenced far more by actual addition of water volume through melting ice sheets rather than by thermal expansion. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet would add IIRC about 10 meters to the existing sea level; melting of the Antarctic ice sheet is estimated to add another 120 meters or so.

On preview - permafrost in northern Alaska, Canada and Siberia would likely disappear, but permafrost is frozen ground, not ice. While you would have other problems to cope with if the permafrost melts (in ecological/engineering terms), it really wouldn’t add anything to sea level rise.

The ice in Northern Alaska (and I believe, most of Northern Siberia as well) is seasonal, and melts every year right now. There is no year round ice cap on Alaska; there is the permafrost (frozen ground), but the year round frozen part lies from 2 to 12 feet underground in the summer, and the tundra blooms with life. Check out the map at the bottom of this article:

Navy report shows polar cap is shrinking fast

Wow, what a huge pile of digression. To actually address the OP, here’s a nice succinct discussion of the fears regarding loss of sovereignty in Canada’s north due to warming and the role of the Canadian Rangers in protecting the area.

More good info

Still more info…

…and here’s my Google search