Climate Change Impacts

A sea-route change in the Arctic

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Science  09 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6304, pp. 1110-1111
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6304.1110-e

Shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean will multiply as climate warms.

PHOTO: MINT IMAGES LIMITED/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Arctic sea ice is rapidly disappearing as climate warms, ushering in an entirely novel era in marine transportation with important economic implications, because more frequent open seas will allow increasing volumes of trans-Arctic shipping. Melia et al. used an ensemble of climate models from the Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project to project how sea ice loss might increase opportunities for ocean-going vessels to cross the Arctic. They find that standard open-water vessels will have twice as many navigable periods by the middle of the 21st century as they do now, including some across the central Arctic. The shipping season length could reach 4 to 8 months by late century, when moderately ice-strengthened vessels could be able to complete Arctic transits during 10 to 12 months of the year.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2016GL069315 (2016).

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