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Melting Arctic ice means better internet in Alaska


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, July 11, 2016, 8:03 PM - Arctic ice is melting, and fast.

Melting Arctic ice presents a lot of problems for the environment, especially considering the speed it's moving at.

"As a result of human-caused climate change, the Arctic is warming at a rate roughly twice as fast as the global average, and these extraordinary warm temperatures are whittling away at the sea ice there," says Weather Network meteorologist and science writer Scott Sutherland.

"In addition, the exposed water left behind after the ice melts causes that's known as Arctic amplification. Normally, the ice covering the water would reflect most of the incoming sunlight that strikes it straight back out into space. With the ice gone, though, the water absorbs that sunlight and warms, while at the same time, it emits part of that heat as infrared light, which is absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the air, heating the air further as well.

These two increases in heat, of the water and the air, melts even more ice, exposing more water, and this continues."



A massive breakup of Arctic sea ice in the Beaufort Sea, from April 1 to 30, 2016. Images courtesy: NASA Terra/MODIS. Animation by S. Sutherland

It's a bleak outlook, to put it lightly -- but it turns out there might be a small silver lining for the people of Alaska.

According to The Weather Channel, Arctic sea is has diminished to its lowest level in 38 years, meaning a chunk of ice the size of Texas -- roughly 4.63 million square miles -- is missing when compared to normal conditions.

That's left a lot of open space, and that's allowed ships to pass through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to install fibre optic cables to improve internet speeds.

Alaska-based communications company Quintillion Networks plans to bury an underwater cable connected to a landline in Fairbanks to support broadband access to six nearby communities. Officials say internet access in these areas are currently spotty and slow.

The Alaskan cables could be ready by early 2017 and if everything goes well, the company plans to expand into Europe and Asia. If that succeeds, it will mark the first time two continents will be united by a cable.

Source: The Weather Channel

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