In a first, a Russian natural gas ship and an icebreaker have traversed a high-altitude section of the Northern Sea Route in February. This was possible due to low sea ice cover, something that's occurring at dangerously high speeds.
This recent trip is a clear display of climate change, and how it's affecting our planet's ice sheets. On top of that, being able to access such regions year-round has been on international oil and gas companies' radar for a while. This trip potentionally opens up a race into the region to extract its resources — another alarming breakthrough.
The trip's details and what this means
The trip was carried out by Russian tanker, Christophe de Margerie, which completed the experimental voyage on February 19. The tanker traversed the Arctic via an eastern route that went from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, Russia to Jiangsu in China.
The tanker went across six Arctic seas, and through four of it it was accompanied by the nuclear icebreaker, 50 Let Probedy.
A short celebratory video of the two ships' trip was released on YouTube by a Russian state nuclear energy company, Rosatom, that owns the icebreaker. Adding to the news in a positive light, the Russian shipping company that owns Christophe de Margerie, Sovcomflot, published an upbeat press release.
Don't be fooled by the uplifting and inspiring music in the video or the press release's cheery note, though, as this feat may be good for lining the pockets of businesses, but it's a devastating sign of climate change.
The navigation of the eastern part of the Arctic "has practically doubled" stated Sovcomflot's CEO, Igor Tonkovidov.
It's clear to see that this route is now possible due to rapidly rising water temperatures, with old sea ice dwindling en masse and new sea ice unable to become strong and thick enough to remain in place. Watching these ships break through these breaking ice sheets is, in fact, a sad sight.
If we look at studies from last year, for instance, another section of the Arctic known as "the last ice area" near Canada and Greenland, is in more danger than previously thought. It's now melting in place and floating southwards — towards even warmer waters, and ultimately more melting.
And at the rate Arctic ice is melting, more turbulent waters in the region are to be expected, pointed out an MIT study.
These are only a couple of examples of what we can expect climate change, and Arctic ice and waters to bring about in our near future. This recent Northern Sea Route voyage is a clear sign of these devastating climate change effects.