Multiyear Arctic ice is gone. Deal with it!

The multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished, a startling development that will make it easier to open up polar shipping routes, says an Arctic expert.

Vast sheets of impenetrable multiyear ice, which can reach up to 80 meters (260 feet) thick, have for centuries blocked the path of ships seeking a quick short cut through the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They also ruled out the idea of sailing across the top of the world.

But David Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said the ice was melting at an extraordinarily fast rate. “We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere,” he said in a presentation in Parliament. The little that remains is jammed up against Canada’s Arctic archipelago, far from potential shipping routes…

Barber spoke shortly after returning from an expedition that sought — and largely failed to find — a huge multiyear ice pack that should have been in the Beaufort Sea off the Canadian coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk.

Instead, his ice breaker found hundreds of miles of what he called “rotten ice” — 50-cm (20-inch) thin layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic … it was very dramatic,” he said.

“From a practical perspective, if you want to ship across the pole, you’re concerned about multiyear sea ice. You’re not concerned about this rotten stuff we were doing 13 knots through. It’s easy to navigate through…”

“I would argue that, from a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic,” said Barber.

Barber thinks we should pay attention to his discovery. Those of us who pay attention to science, draw conclusions from information that is verifiable – must assume the responsibility of developing political answers to the questions raised.

Nations must as ever devise systems to divide raw materials, traffic, profits from the change – and opportunity. If their leaders pay attention to reality, they might do so in a peaceful, positive fashion.

CNN shuts down science and technology department

CNN has decided to shutter its science and technology unit — a move that will result in the loss of seven jobs including veteran space correspondent Miles O’Brien…

The decision to do away with science-and-tech reporting as a standalone unit is an editorial one, not an economic one, the media company said. Instead, those stories will be integrated into other parts of the network, CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said. For example, the bulk of the network’s environmental coverage is part of Anderson Cooper 360’s “Planet in Peril” occasional series.

O’Brien, who joined CNN in April 1992, was CNN’s chief technology and environment correspondent. At one time he hosted a weekly science-and-technology show.

“In television news, a nearly 17-year stint at one shop is more than just a good run, it is an epoch. I can honestly say I have loved every minute of my time at CNN,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I see a lot of exciting opportunities — and I look forward to exploring what is on the horizon.”

CNN becomes less and less watchable by the day. From being the leading 24/7 news source in the United States, Time-Warner has emasculated and diminished all pretense at journalism.

Since my primary source for TV news is via DirecTV satellite – and they haven’t any more courage and integrity than CNN – I’m fortunate in having a decent broadband connection and an iTunes subscription to proper news channels via AppleTV into our living room.