Boy, are some climate change deniers going to take this one the wrong way, but melting sea ice is bringing faster internet to Alaska.
This past June was the worst month on record for Arctic sea ice coverage according to the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center, with the ice cover accumulated over the winter disappearing at a rate of 74,000 sq km a day -70 per cent faster than normal.
Scientists are concluding that global warming is hitting the Arctic much harder than previously estimated, and the damage is only expected to get worse as retreating ice coverage will mean a loss of the ice’s reflective white surface in exchange for the darker ocean waters, which more readily absorb the sun’s energy and cause further heating up of the Arctic and the planet. The NSIDC reported that overall sea ice coverage is down about 1.36 million sq km -an area about twice the size of Texas.
“As a result of human-caused climate change, the Arctic is warming at a rate roughly twice as fast as the global average,” says meteorologist and science writer Scott Sutherland with the Weather Network, “And these extraordinary warm temperatures are whittling away at the sea ice there.”
A side consequence of the devastation has been that newly opened up Arctic waters are making it easier for transportation and infrastructure to push further into the North. Quintillion Networks, for example, based in Anchorage, Alaska, is in the midst of a three-stage installation plan to connect Asia, North America and Europe through an undersea fibre-optic cable stretching across the Arctic Circle.
Originally launched by Toronto-based company Arctic Fire, the Arctic cable project was recently part of a takeover by Quintillion, where former CEO of Arctic Fibre and now Quintillion board member, Michael Cunningham, says the project is “still very much the same as before.”
Phase 1 of the plan, already under way according to the company, involves laying 2,000 km of cable connecting Alaskan communities along the northwest coast. Phase 2 will send a line from Nome, Alaska, across to Asia and phase 3 will head the other direction from Alaska through the Northwest Passage and across to Europe, hitting seven communities in Nunavut along the way.
In total, the project will involve almost 16,000 km of cable and cost $620 million USD.
A veritable necessity in today’s world, high-speed internet access in the Arctic would mean greater opportunities for employment and economic growth, say its proponents, including Oana Spinu of the Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation, who recognizes the financial costs have so far made such projects a difficult sell. “For Nunavut in particular, our vast geography and small market make it very challenging for a private sector initiative alone to successfully bring fibre optic to the North,” says Spinu.
Undersea telecommunication has been around since telegraph lines were first laid down in the 1800s, but the world has witnessed a much more rapid deployment over the past generation, with currently an estimated one million km of undersea cables connecting the world through over 250 separate fibre-optic cables.
The cable through the Arctic would travel the shortest route to connect Asia and Europe and cut transmission lag time between London and Tokyo.