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Sea ice decline and 21st century trans-Arctic shipping routes

Melia, N., Haines, K. and Hawkins, E. (2016) Sea ice decline and 21st century trans-Arctic shipping routes. Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (18). pp. 9720-9728. ISSN 1944-8007

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/2016GL069315

Abstract/Summary

The observed decline in Arctic sea ice is projected to continue, opening shorter trade routes across the Arctic Ocean, with potentially global economic implications. Here we quantify, using CMIP5 global climate model simulations calibrated to remove spatial biases, how projected sea ice loss might increase opportunities for Arctic-transit shipping. By mid-century for standard Open Water vessels, the frequency of navigable periods doubles, with routes across the central Arctic becoming available. A sea ice – ship speed relationship is used to show that European routes to Asia typically become 10 days faster via the Arctic than alternatives by mid-century, and 13 days faster by late-century, while North American routes become 4 days faster. Future greenhouse-gas emissions have a larger impact by late-century; the shipping season reaching 4-8 months in RCP8.5, double that of RCP2.6, both with substantial inter-annual variability. Moderately ice-strengthened vessels likely enable Arctic transits for 10-12 months by late century.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:66509
Publisher:American Geophysical Union

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