Due to global warming fueling an Arctic meltdown, the Northwest and Northeast Passages may possibly be concurrently free of ice for the first time in about 125,000 years. Scientists at the University of Bremen pieced together NASA satellite image maps of the sea ice, which revealed a startling image of a possible Arctic "island".
A circumnavigable Arctic would allow commercial ships to shorten trip times by navigating through the Arctic. However, increased ship traffic in the Arctic would lead to more precarious conditions for Arctic ecosystems and wildlife. Allowing large shipping vessels, and prospectors seeking oil and gas, easier access to once hard to reach areas would increase the potential for oil spills, ship strikes with marine life, and increased pollution from ships, including black carbon, a potent Arctic warmer.
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