iD magazine - - Readerfeedback -

I thor­oughly en­joyed the ar­ti­cle on ice­breaker ships in your March 2016 is­sue. It gave me an all-new re­spect for ship con­struc­tion and the pos­si­ble hard­ships faced by sailors in the Arc­tic re­gions.

I do won­der though if any­one has ever con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity that the ice-break­ing ac­tiv­i­ties ( par­tic­u­larly in the North Pole) have any ef­fect on the global warm­ing phe­nom­e­non? It’s no big se­cret that hu­mankind is largely re­spon­si­ble for much of the eco­log­i­cal dam­age done to our planet, and there is no ques­tion we are try­ing to re­pair said dam­age.

I still won­der if na­ture in­tended the ice shelves that have been mea­sured at a thick­ness of 15 feet to serve a nat­u­ral pur­pose and ask if we have dis­turbed a nat­u­ral pro­cess of our planet’s over­all eco­log­i­cal bal­ance by break­ing th­ese ice sheets.

I would be in­ter­ested to see what in­for­ma­tion you could find out in that re­spect. Keep up the good work with your mag­a­zine, I al­ways look for­ward to see­ing what the next is­sue will bring!

Rob Thomas, Wa­ter­down, ON, Canada

Thanks for drop­ping us a line about the ice­breaker ar­ti­cle, we’re glad to hear you en­joyed it and that it gave you food for thought. In our es­sen­tially in­ter­con­nected world, the im­pact of this hu­man ac­tiv­ity with re­gard to global warm­ing is in­deed some­thing to be con­sid­ered now more than ever.

The sea ice of the Arc­tic re­flects the ma­jor­ity of the sun’s rays, which helps to cool down the top half of the planet. How­ever open wa­ter re­flects less than ice, so it ab­sorbs more of the sun’s heat. For in­stance, when Arc­tic sea ice melts in the sum­mer, more ar­eas of open wa­ter ab­sorb more so­lar en­ergy and re­sult in warmer wa­ter and more ice melt. So the open wa­ter an ice­breaker leaves in its wake does ab­sorb more heat from the sun than the ice around it, which does have an im­pact at the lo­cal level. But in the grand scheme of things, ice­break­ers’ im­pact on ice loss is min­i­mal: At any given time there are one to three ice­break­ers in the Arc­tic, and the amount of open wa­ter they pro­duce as they travel af­fects a small frac­tion of the to­tal ice cover.

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