August 17, 2008

We need more Arctic Icebreakers

This moment of splendid cognitive dissonance is brought to you by the New York Times:
A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic
A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.

The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States� two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.

And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon�s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country�s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world�s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.
Well, we know from this post a few days ago (and a lot of other evidence) that although the ice thins during the summer, it re-freezes in the winter and the overall extent of the ice is not changing -- if anything, it is increasing. The summer of 2007 had major melting but the summer of 2008 is right back to where it was before -- 2007 was an anomoly in the most classical sense. This fact has not escaped the Russians as they are planning to operate 14 conventional and seven nuclear ice-breakers in the near future. We also know from the historical records of whaling ship logs, that there have been times when a "Northwest Passage" was open -- it came and went. I also like that the NYT article mentioned Climate Change instead of Global Warming which it used to excess a few years ago... Posted by DaveH at August 17, 2008 7:28 PM
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