Arctic Sea "A Giant Slushee" Thanks to Rapid Melt; Activists Confront Oilers
The effects of climate change are showing up in the Arctic Ocean, making the previously frigid region look like a "giant slushee" in the words of one scientist.
Satellites tracking the extent of the sea ice found over the weekend that it covered about 1.58 million square miles, or less than 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s surface, scientists said. That is only slightly below the previous record low, set in 2007, but with weeks still to go in the summer melting season, it is clear that the record will be beaten by a wide margin.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-sponsored research agency in Boulder, Colo., announced the findings on Monday in collaboration with NASA. The amount of sea ice in the summer has declined more than 40 percent since satellite tracking began in the late 1970s, a trend that most scientists believe is primarily a consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases.
“It’s hard even for people like me to believe, to see that climate change is actually doing what our worst fears dictated,” said Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University scientist who studies the effect of sea ice on weather patterns. “It’s starting to give me chills, to tell you the truth.”
Compounding the problem of the melt itself is that it has opened up areas for drilling and mining, leading to this week's confrontation between Greenpeace activists and Russian drill expeditions. Environment News Service has been reporting on these actions:
Two days after voluntarily ending its occupation of the first permanent oil rig in the offshore Russian Arctic, Greenpeace International has mounted another action to stop Gazprom from drilling in the environmentally fragile area.
Early this morning, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo and six other Greenpeacers headed toward the platform in two high-speed boats to intercept the Anna Akhmatova, a passenger vessel carrying workers to the rig.
Two hours later, another two boats with seven more activists arrived on the scene in the Pechora Sea.
Now 14 activists from 10 countries have attached themselves to the anchor chain of the Anna Akhmatova and chained their boat to it, preventing the vessel from lifting anchor and sailing out to the Prirazlomnaya oil platform.