It's been almost a month since I posted the first Northwest Passage animation. Because of the lack of detail I had decided to put some more effort into it and updated it with a second animation that zoomed on a large part of the direct route of the Passage, using the 250m scale satellite images from MODIS.
Now that the sky over the Canadian Archipelago has finally cleared up a bit I figured it was time to zoom out again - no more cracks in ice bridges in the direct route to put under the blogoscope - so we can see what is happening in all the straits and channels and sounds and bays and gulfs:
I've still not rotated the image, as I guess most people who check out MODIS images are used to it looking like this (and I'm too lazy to make the effort), but here's the animation:
Like Greg Wellman noted in the last SIE update: "The NWP may not yet be navigable to a fiberglass hull, but if Henry Larsen was around today, he'd take the St. Roch through that rubble in a heartbeat". Comparing the last two dates (204 and 205) it looks as though is starting to move sideways again, or to be more precise: the the north.
Silly question perhaps, but could the landfast ice to the right of the image, between the Queen Elizabeth Islands, break up and melt? I wonder if the ice floes in the Beaufort Sea would then be exported out in a similar way as through Nares Strait if winds were favourable.
Update: I coincidentally found an answer to this question on this NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Report from August 18th last year:
Recent research by Stephen Howell at the University of Waterloo in Canada shows that whether the Northwest Passage clears depends less on how much melt occurs, and more on whether multi-year sea ice is pushed into the channels. Counterintuitively, as the ice cover thins, ice may flow more easily into the channels, preventing the Northwest Passage from regularly opening in coming decades.