Germans estimate North-East Passage navigable in 10 years
May 4, 2009, 13:35 GMT
Kiel, Germany - After studying ice formation on the Siberian coast, German scientists forecast Monday that regular ships would be able to sail through the entire North-East Passage between Europe and Asia in summer in 10 to 15 years.
Heidemarie Kassens of the Leibniz Oceanography Institute in Kiel said earlier estimates this would happen by 2050 were out of date because of the rapid pace of climate change. The passage through Arctic waters north of Russia would link the Atlantic and Pacific.
Speaking after a six-week expedition to the Laptev Sea off Siberia, she called the development alarming. The region was a major source of new ice, but this year it had produced very little, she said.
It was noticeable that many Atlantic species of plankton were invading the Arctic and displacing Arctic species.
'The ice cover on the sea is melting faster than our models forecast,' Kassens said, adding that Siberia's permafrost was thawing too. The expedition saw buildings on the permafrost cracked and in danger of collapse.
The Transdrift Expedition was tasked with studying so-called polynyas. A polynya is open water between the coastal ice field and the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean which remains ice-free despite the cold of winter.
A polynya directly responds to changes in sea currents or air circulation, and can indicate changes in the whole Arctic.