Once an impregnable forest of huge ice blocks, the Northwest Passage has — for the first time in recorded history — become almost completely ice-free and open to navigation. Researchers at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center recently announced that: "Analysts confirm that the passage is almost completely clear and that the region is more open than it has ever been since the advent of routine monitoring in 1972." While it had long been expected that the Northwest Passage would gradually open up as a result of rising global temperatures, scientists were taken aback at the speed with which it happened.
The Northwest Passage — which runs along the Arctic coastline of North America and serves as a shortcut between the northern parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans — is considered to be an important cargo route. Russian, Canadian and Norwegian authorities will no doubt be keeping that in mind as they continue their attempts to claim the Arctic — which holds almost a quarter of the planet's untapped oil and gas reserves — for their respective countries.
Via ::Guardian Unlimited Environment: North-West Passage is now plain sailing (news website)