The Rush to Exploit an Increasingly Ice-Free Arctic
Every time a new sea ice extent record for Arctic melting is broken, the same question comes up: how long until itâ€™s gone? That is, how long will it be before the Arctic Ocean is functionally ice-free in the summer, legitimately opening the once-fabled Northwest Passage?
The fact is, we donâ€™t know. Climate models continue to underestimate the rate of sea ice loss weâ€™re observing, leaving researchers to hazard less scientific guesses. Many estimate that day will come around 2030, but some others push it out to 2070. Regardless, Arctic sea ice is changingâ€”and fast. The prospects of open shipping routes and newly-accessible resources have corporations chomping at the bit and governments racing to prepare the way. Three (open access) articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists describe the outlook for a changing Arctic from the perspectives of the US, Russia, and Canada. All parties have at least one view in commonâ€”things will get complicated.