Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hooray for global warming

I thought it was just a joke that Canadians weren't that upset about global warming, but these guys really don't seem that upset about it - "Yay new shipping passages!" - tell that to the people of Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Bowhead bones probed for clues to climate change

Two researchers will soon be scouring central Nunavut for bowhead whalebones and prehistoric dwellings, hoping to understand future climate warming trends by looking at the past.

About 8,000 years ago bowhead whales, which can grow up to 18 metres long, swam through the Northwest Passage. At the time, the passage was partially ice-free because the temperature was about three degrees warmer.

At least 1,200 skeletons have been excavated, said Arthur Dyke of the Geological Survey of Canada. He'll soon be heading to Kent Peninsula and King William Island, south of Cambridge Bay, to find more.

Dyke wants to test the bones and use the data to determine what conditions could lead to an open Northwest Passage during the summer season.

Climate models project the opening as soon as 2050 of a northeastern sea route that would cut travel times for ships between Russia and North America, followed by a clearing of the Northwest Passage through Canada's Lancaster Sound.

"Hopefully, it will give us some indication of the probability of future opening of the Northwest Passage, which would be a major international shipping route in the coming decades to century," said Dyke.

His colleague, Jim Savelle, an anthropology professor at Montreal's McGill University, wants to discover how people lived in the warmer temperatures.

The two researchers are hoping the public will help them find the fossils and dwellings.

Their work is scheduled to begin this weekend.

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