The International Ice Charting Working Group predicts more marine transportation in the Arctic as sea ice continues to diminish and warns of "significant hazards to navigation," according to a statement released yesterday.
The statement was released during a five-day conference held at ESRIN, ESAs Earth Observation Centre in Frascati, Italy, in which operational ice experts from Europe and North America gathered to discuss the state of the polar regions.
"In September 2007, the Arctic sea ice reached the minimum extent the lowest amount of ice recorded in the area annually in the history of ice charting based on satellite, aircraft and surface observations, continuing a recent trend of diminishing sea ice that began in the 1980s and has accelerated. While there will still be natural inter-annual variability, the decline is likely to continue," the statement reads.
"The Arctic is already experiencing an increase in shipping, primarily for oil and gas development and tourism, and we can expect to see further increases as diminishing ice extent makes Arctic marine transportation more viable. The International Ice Charting Working Group (IICWG) cautions that sea ice and icebergs will continue to present significant hazards to navigation for the foreseeable future."
Satellites for monitoring, modelling
During the last 25 years, satellites have been observing the Arctic and have witnessed reductions in the minimum ice extent at the end of summer from around 8 million km in the early 1980s to the historic minimum of less than 4.24 million km in 2007, as observed in September by ESAs Envisat satellite. The previous record low, as observed by Envisat and the EOS Aqua satellite, was in 2005 when the minimum ice extent was 5.5 million km.
"We have been very lucky to have had the capability to monitor the polar regions with satellites since the 1970s because it has allowed us to fully capture the trend," Dr Pab
|Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto|
European Space Agency