ENVIRONMENT

Warm Winds May Reopen Arctic Northwest Passage

Alaska's warm weather this summer has all "gone north." Way north. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center say strong, southerly winds from the North Slope have devoured a huge swath of Arctic ice larger than the state of Texas in the heart of the Beaufort Sea.

Combining that loss with the overall decline in sea ice in recent years should leave this year's end-of-summer Arctic ice pack close to its lowest measurement on record. It also may open up the ice-encrusted Northwest Passage for the second year in a row -- and only the second time in recorded history.

The Beaufort's broad expanse of open water, which now extends more than a third of the way from Alaska to the North Pole, far surpasses the ice-free zone that prevailed there last summer when Arctic ice overall plummeted to a record low.

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