In an effort to reach all corners of the Earth and moon, China is building its first state-constructed icebreaker for Arctic expeditions, and will launch its third lunar explorer and first lander next year, the state-run news agency said this week.
It's an auspicious first, but not necessarily a positive one: Rising ocean temperatures and melting sea ice have, over the last few years, made the fabled northern sea route between Western Europe and Russia/Asia a reality, and a German vessel is going to be the first ship to make an attempted passage this summer.
In the 30 plus years since scientists started using satellites to track the area of the Arctic ice cap, the size of the ice pack has gotten smaller and smaller. However, new data from NASA's IceSAT satellite shows that the ice has been melting faster than anyone predicted.
If you've been following the status of Arctic sea ice for the past few years, hearing scientists herald the potential coming of an ice-free Arctic summer may sound like old news. But according to researchers at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo., this year, sea ice at the top of the globe may be even more vulnerable to melting than in the past.
Scientists say Arctic ice shelves located along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island have undergone massive changes during the summer of 2008. In July, a large section of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf -- the largest in the Canadian Arctic -- broke off from Ellesmere Island. The entire Markham Ice Shelf broke away in early August and is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean. And two large sections of ice detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, reducing its size by 60 percent.
The past seven days have seen some serious action on PPX. First, the three "Labor Day stocks," TRANSF, HIGAS and SUBPC, all closed at POP$0. Then on September 5, Apple announced the iPod Touch, which signaled a payout of POP$100 for the NEWIPOD stock.
Today, an unexpected announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center prompted the close of NOICE, with a payout of POP$100. The proposition stated that the stock would pay out if Arctic ice levels dropped to a level below 4.25 million square kilometers before October 15, and according to a new study by the NSIDC, the ice level has now dropped to an unprecedented 4.24 million square kilometers.
The striking thing about this payout is that the stock was trading at only $46.75 at the time of close— meaning that the market believed there was only a 46.75 percent chance that Arctic ice would drop to this new low by October. Thus far, every stock that has closed on PPX has carried a price that reflects an accurate prediction on the part of the market. So what was different about NOICE? Did the politically-charged issue of global warming play into the way traders bought and shorted this stock? Were we all unpleasantly surprised by how rapidly Arctic ice is actually melting? The upshot is that today's news was a rude awakening not only for environmentalists and the scientists working to slow down global warming, but also for all the PPX traders who lost POP$ by shorting this stock. —Megan Miller