Breaking Ice in the Arctic

Written by Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

For a mere $70,000 per couple, you can break ice at the North Pole. Actually, you can just sit back, sip a drink, and watch the nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker Victory do the work for you.

Arctic Cruises

There are plenty of Arctic cruises at this time of the year, between mid-June and mid-September. For example, the ad for the Victory’sNorth Pole Expedition Cruise” reads:

Day 3-7 – Northbound in the Arctic Ocean
Watching the Victory crush through the Arctic ice pack is a sight you’ll never forget, made even more memorable by taking a helicopter flight for a thrilling aerial view of the Victory and expansive Arctic Ocean.

Arctic Ice Breaker

Elsewhere, it says:

Carrying the highest ice class rating possible, Victory can crush ice up to 3 meters (10 feet) thick, and is the world’s largest and most sophisticated nuclear-powered icebreaker.”

Of course, the Victory is not the only ship plying the Arctic waters though most others are limited to zones of much thinner ice or ice-free water. According to another ad, you can even go “Hot Air Ballooning at the North Pole.”

In addition to sight-seeing expeditions, there are merchant ships attempting to use the Northwest Passage as a short route between the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts, various naval and scientific research vessels, and companies exploring for natural resources.

Ice-Breaking

The increased marine activity in the Arctic is often accompanied by ice-breaking of some sort. Most of the ships operating there have re-enforced bows which lets them cut through a layer of ice. In part, the thrill of these “expeditions” derives from the sound of ice being crushed by the ship’s hull. It provides both audible and visible proof of man’s ingenuity and physical force in one of the world’s last frontiers.

Once sheared off the remaining contiguous Arctic ice cover, such free-floating ice fields tend to drift into the open water even with little current or wind to push them. As a result, they swiftly melt away or no longer count as “Arctic summer sea-ice” for satellite surveys. The icebergs that (naturally) break off the glaciers and drift south for up to three thousand miles in “iceberg alley” between Greenland and Canada bear witness to such movement.

Ice Extent

The interesting fact is that the Arctic sea-ice extent over the fall, winter and spring periods has barely changed in recent decades. The most pronounced variation of the extent is at the end of the Arctic summer at mid-September. Therefore, claims by “climate change enthusiasts” that the ice is getting thinner could hardly be true. After all, approximately two thirds of the sea-ice in the Arctic forms anew every winter and recent winters have been no less cold than earlier ones. For example, temperature records from Fairbanks, Alaska have shown no warming for the last 15 or so winters.

So, if you are looking for an explanation for the decline of the summer sea-ice in the Arctic in recent years, perhaps the ice-breaking activities are a better explanation than the claimed “climate change.”

 

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