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Copyright (c) 2009 Journal of Transnational Law & Policy
Journal of Transnational Law & Policy

ARTICLE: THE LEGAL REGIME FOR THE ARCTIC OCEAN

Spring, 2009

Journal of Transnational Law & Policy

18 J. Transnat'l L. & Pol'y 195

Author

Christopher C. Joyner*

Excerpt



Introduction

The great Arctic ice meltdown has begun. Within the past decade, the ice covering the Arctic Ocean has been subjected to intense, pervasive melting, presumably brought on by global climate disruption. Over the last three decades, satellite data clearly indicates that the area of ice covering the Arctic Ocean has been reduced considerably, with perhaps as much as 38,000 square miles disappearing each year. 1 "The ice's seasonal shrinkage in 2007 smashed records, reaching a September minimum of 2.6 million square miles-some [twenty-three] percent smaller than the previous record, set in 2005." 2 In fact, computer models predicted in 2007 that "sea ice could vanish from the Arctic ocean completely as early as 2040." 3 As the heat-reflecting ice that has made the Arctic the most inaccessible and uncharted part of the earth turns into water-which absorbs heat-the shrinkage is accelerating faster than climate models ever predicted. The latter factor, known as the ice-albedo effect, works like this: as ice melts in the summer, the open ocean warms up as it absorbs the solar radiation that the ice would normally reflect back to space; as global temperatures rise, more ice melts, so there is more ocean water, which absorbs more heat, and less ice re-forms the next winter, which perpetrates the cycle. 4 Most researchers had anticipated that the complete disappearance of the Arctic ice pack during summer months would happen after the year 2070, but present trends suggest that loss of all summer sea ice cover ...
 
 
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