Canada C3: Arctic tourism heats up as ice conditions change
Published Friday, August 18, 2017 11:44PM EDT
When we got up this morning on the C3, Tom Zagon from the Canadian Ice Service, gave us a briefing about about ice in the Arctic. For a lot of people, ice may not seem like the most engaging of topics, but it was fascinating to hear Tom speak about it. He's very passionate about the subject and has a great way of putting things in perspective. So I wanted to interview him for the blog.
I asked him to explain two charts for me. Here's a video clip of him explaining the first -- the extent of the ice freeze and melt:
And in this video video clip, he explains an image from last September, which shows how much much ice there should have been, and how much there actually was:
Then we talked some more. Here's an excerpt of that interview.
Thomas Zagon, physical scientist, Canadian Ice Service
Tom, tell me about general ice behavior in the Arctic.
When most people think about ice they think about it during the summer because that's when the minimum occurs, but really sea ice - there's a pattern of expansion for six months and six months when the ice actually recedes back to its minimum. So the minimum occurs around the first week of September and the maximum occurs around the first week of March. So in Canadian waters that's about a 4,000,000 square kilometres of difference between the minimum and maximum.
But let's talk about the entire North Pole and Northern Hemisphere. During the minimum, it's about 4,000,000 square kilometres of sea ice; during the maximum it's around 14,000,000 square kilometres. So there's a 10,000,000 square kilometres difference. That's the size of Canada!
So imagine all of Canada's land mass being covered by sea ice and then that sea ice disappearing within a six month period.
For that to happen, you need to actually - about - freeze 1 square kilometre per second. Per second! This is for every minute. For every hour. For every day. For every week. For every month during that period. This is the speed at which freeze up needs to occur to reach that 14,000,000 square kilometres and the opposite is true for ice edge to recede back to the summer minimum. You're melting ice at about the same speed.
What have you notice about the change of behavior in Arctic Ice?
Well first of all if somebody said you're going to see cruise ships regularly going through the Northwest Passage, I would have said that's impossible - that's never going to happen. And it's happening today. So there's less ice throughout the cycle. There's less ice - if you look at the 30 year average - there's less ice in the summer during the minimum, there's less ice during the maximum, and there's less ice throughout the entire period - the concentration, the thickness, and the extent.
What are the implications?
There are a number. If you're into shipping, you're probably happy because you have less ice to go through. If you're living in a community that uses the ice to travel on - so you're travelling between communities or using the ice for hunting and fishing then you're worried. You're concerned. Because ice becomes unpredictable and your season is shorter and more dangerous. This is an indication of climate change.
What's been surprising is the increase in tourism, cruise ships and adventure tourism. That has surprised everybody I think because conditions make it possible to travel to areas that were not possible before but at the same time we've improved technology - we've improved icebreakers, we have better ships, better engines, that can go into thesse areas. [But] the NW passage is not going to be used commercially, I think, any time soon. I don't think we're going to have an increase in oil and gas exploration anytime soon - not because of the ice conditions, but because of the [low] price of oil.