Orbital View: A Nearly Ice-Free Northwest Passage

©NASA

Northwest Passage

The Northwest Passage is a famed high-latitude sea route in the Arctic. The route meanders through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

For most of the year, its waters are choked with sea ice. But by mid-August 2016, the passage was nearly ice-free.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced almost the entire distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay, encountering a scattering of broken ice just east of Victoria Island.

This is not the first Arctic summer with so much open water. According to NOAA, the more frequent opening of the Northwest Passage means that it is becoming an increasingly viable route for shipping.

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