[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Mostly clear
Mostly clear
51°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
December 10
1941 - Three days after Pearl Harbor attack, 165th and 185th Infantry Regiments assigned to Saugus; Edison power substation guarded 24/7 [timeline]
Edison substation timeline


Click map to enlarge

Click map to enlarge

Shipping lanes through the Arctic Ocean won’t put the Suez and Panama canals out of business anytime soon, but global warming will make these frigid routes much more accessible than ever imagined by melting an unprecedented amount of sea ice during the late summer, new UCLA research shows.

“The development is both exciting from an economic development point of view and worrisome in terms of safety, both for the Arctic environment and for the ships themselves,” said lead researcher Laurence C. Smith, a professor of geography at UCLA.

The findings, which explore accessibility during the Arctic’s most navigable month of the year, September, appear in the latest issue of the scholarly journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Plus. The first thorough assessment of trans-Arctic shipping potential as global temperatures continue to rise, the study is based on independent climate forecasts for the years 2040 to 2059.

By mid-century, even ordinary shipping vessels will be able to navigate previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, and they will not need icebreakers to blaze their path as they do today, the researchers found.

“We’re talking about a future in which open-water vessels will, at least during some years, be able to navigate unescorted through the Arctic, which at the moment is inconceivable,” said co-author Scott R. Stephenson, a Ph.D. candidate in the UCLA Department of Geography.

Just as surprisingly, the Arctic ice sheet is expected to thin to the point that polar icebreakers will be able to navigate between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by making a straight shot over the North Pole, Smith and Stephenson predict.

“Nobody’s ever talked about shipping over the top of the North Pole,” Smith said. “This is an entirely unexpected possibility.”

The route directly over the North Pole is 20 percent shorter than today’s most-trafficked Arctic shipping lane, the Northern Sea Route, which hugs the coast of Russia. For vessels traveling between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Yokohama, Japan, the Northern Sea Route is already approximately 40 percent shorter than the traditional route through the Suez Canal.

Even the fabled and notoriously treacherous Northwest Passage, which traces Canada’s coastline and offers the most direct route from Asia to eastern Canada and the northeasternmost part of the U.S., is expected to become more viable for Polar Class 6 vessels — a common type of ship that has been strengthened against ice — and possibly even ships with unreinforced hulls, which make up the lion’s share of the world’s commercial fleet.

Today, the Northwest Passage is theoretically navigable only one out of seven years, on average, making it too unreliable to be a viable option for commercial shippers, the researchers said. But by mid-century, sea ice will melt in September to the point that it is accessible every other year, on average. Choosing whether to ship through the passage “will become a coin toss,” Smith said.

The predictions, however, do not foresee access beyond late summer. “This will never be a year-round operation,” Smith stressed.

Smith is an authority on the ways in which climate change is affecting the Arctic, where average temperatures have risen faster than the global average since the mid-1980s. He has quantified the disappearance of more than 1,000 Arctic lakes. He also is the author of “The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future,” a 2010 book that looks at new economic opportunities, as well as environmental degradation, taking shape in the northern quarter of the globe. With Stephenson, Smith has calculated the toll global warming will take on Arctic ice roads and the communities and businesses that depend on them.

For centuries, the Arctic Ocean has captured the imagination of explorers because of the possibility it offers for traveling between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans through the Bering Strait. Until recently, however, sea ice has blocked access to the potential shortcut between Asia and North America or Europe. But in the past two years, the ice has begun to melt in late summer to such an extent that even ordinary seagoing vessels, albeit with escorts, have been able to enter its frigid waters. In summer 2012, a total of 46 voyages successfully crossed the Northern Sea Route.

To arrive at their predictions, Smith and Stephenson studied these emerging shipping routes and the degree of ice melt that has made them possible. They then took the results from seven respected forecasts for the sea ice cover in the Arctic and averaged predictions for the extent of the Arctic ice sheet in September, historically the month when the ocean has the least amount of ice coverage, for every year between 2040 and 2059.

The researchers factored in two scenarios for climate change: one that assumed a 25 percent increase in global carbon emissions, which is generally expected to produce a medium-low increase in temperatures, and one that assumed an additional 10 percent increase in emissions, which is expected to produce a higher increase in temperatures. To their surprise, changes in accessibility were similarly dramatic under both scenarios.

“No matter which carbon emission scenario is considered, by mid-century we will have passed a crucial tipping point — sufficiently thin sea ice — enabling moderately capable icebreakers to go where they please,” Smith said.

The mid-century projections may seem distant when measured against the lifespan of adults living today, the researchers concede. But the period falls well within the long lead times of commercial and governmental planning efforts. As such, the projections have implications for port construction, acquisition of natural resources and the establishment of jurisdiction of shipping lanes, Smith and Stephenson stress.

Canada, for instance, has long maintained that the Northwest Passage falls under Canadian sovereignty, while the U.S. maintains it is an international strait. As long as the passage was essentially unnavigable, the issue was moot, but increasing accessibility could bring the U.S. into dispute with its northern neighbor, the researchers warn.

The increasing viability of shipping routes through the Arctic is also likely to increase pressure on the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Some newly accessible shipping lanes would pass through waters over which the U.S. could make internationally accepted sovereignty claims if it ratified the treaty, the researchers said. Countries that claim sovereignty are able to lay down rules for the vessels that pass through their waters. Russia, which controls the Northern Sea Route, currently requires shipping companies to pay steep fees for escort vessels to accompany their fleets.

The unprecedented new navigation routes that are expected to open up could allow shipping companies to sidestep these escort fees and other Russian regulations, but these new lanes could take Polar Class 6 vessels and even common ships into less-regulated international waters.

While attractive to business, the lack of regulations poses safety, environmental and legal issues that have yet to be resolved, the researchers stress. The prospect of open-water ships entering the Arctic Ocean in late summer heightens the urgency for comprehensive international regulations that provide adequate environmental protections, vessel safety standards and search-and-rescue capability, they said.

“The Arctic is a fragile and dangerous place,” Smith said.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. DaveCline says:

    Now YOU can join the new fleet of Arctic Pirates now assembling along the coast of Canada and Russia.

Leave a Comment


HIGHER EDUCATION LINKS
LOCAL COLLEGE HEADLINES
Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019
California State University, Northridge chemistry professor Gagik Melikyan has been elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow – a recognition given to AAAS members who contribute to the advancement of science and technology.
Monday, Dec 9, 2019
California State University, Northridge ranks among the top 10 universities in the country that awards undergraduate degrees to minority students, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
Monday, Dec 9, 2019
The College of the Canyons Foundation has announced that the 2020 Silver Spur Celebration honoring Bruce Fortine (pictured) will take place on Saturday, March 14, 2020, at Santa Clarita Studios.
Friday, Dec 6, 2019
Although they might be training to become master chefs, no one is above having fun with a gingerbread house competition during the holiday season.
Wednesday, Dec 4, 2019
College of the Canyons officials announced Tuesday they plan to refund $31 million of a recent outstanding general obligation bond, saving taxpayers $8.3 million over the next two decades, according to COC.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
The Santa Clarita City Council unanimously voted Cameron Smyth as its 2020 mayor and Bill Miranda as mayor pro tem on Tuesday.
Smyth Mayor, Miranda Pro-Tem
The Cougars shot better than 50 percent from the field and had four starters score in double figures to defeat visiting West Hills Coalinga College 93-71 on Saturday night at the MacArthur Center.
Cougars Cruise Past West Hills Coalinga 93-71
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies arrested a woman who was allegedly recognized by loss-prevention staff on suspicion of possible prior thefts at the Walmart on The Old Road in Stevenson Ranch, officials said Tuesday.
Woman Arrested for Alleged Walmart Thefts
California State University, Northridge chemistry professor Gagik Melikyan has been elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow – a recognition given to AAAS members who contribute to the advancement of science and technology.
CSUN Chemistry Professor Recognized for Advancement of Science & Technology
Red Rock Canyon State Park’s visitor center is currently open Fridays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
State Parks’ Winter Events, Volunteer Opportunities Announced
Hart High School alumnus Derek Waldeck felt a little extra motivation entering his fourth year as a midfielder for the Stanford University men’s soccer team. Not only because it would be his final collegiate season playing for the team, but because of how the previous campaign ended.
Hart Alumnus Derek Waldeck Striving for 3rd NCAA Title with Stanford
FT. LAUDERDALE – Princess Cruises, the world’s fastest growing international premium cruise line, recently christened its newest ship, Sky Princess in a moving tribute to the pioneering women of the U.S. Space Program who represent crowning achievements in science, research and technology through innovation and their desire to explore the far reaches of the sky.
Princess Cruises Honors NASA’s Pioneering Women
Major Impact Theater (MIT) will host its third annual Cupid’s Crush dinner/dance fundraiser. The event benefits MIT, a nonprofit organization that provides theater production opportunities for adults with disabilities.
Feb. 9: Major Impact Theater’s Cupid’s Crush Dinner/Dance Fundraiser
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Vermyttya Miller, 37, of Santa Clarita, was sentenced to five years in county jail and ordered to pay $22,500 in restitution after pleading no contest to one count of felony insurance fraud for a wedding fraud scheme she concocted to rip off The Knot—not once but twice.
Santa Clarita Bride Pleads No Contest to Fraud Scheme Against The Knot
SACRAMENTO – As part of an effort to identify how climate change will have on California’s complex transportation system that millions rely on, Caltrans is conducting region-specific climate change vulnerability assessments for each of Caltrans’ 12 districts.
Caltrans Conducting Region-Specific Climate Change Assessments
1941 - Three days after Pearl Harbor attack, 165th and 185th Infantry Regiments assigned to Saugus; Edison power substation guarded 24/7 [timeline]
Edison substation timeline
More than $25 million - that is how much the federal Bureau of Land Management or BLM claims is owed to them by CEMEX Corporation.
BLM Gives CEMEX 30 Days to Pay $25M+ or Mining Contracts Canceled
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that 20 films are in the running in the Visual Effects category for the 92nd Academy Awards.
20 Contenders Advance in Visual Effects Oscar Race
The next Hart District meetings include a regular meeting of the Governing Board set for 7 p.m., Wednesday, December 11, at the Administrative Center, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita 91350.
Dec. 11: Hart District Meetings – Financing Authority, Governing Board
Los Angeles County Health officials have extended a beach water use advisory through at least Wednesday morning due to the recent rains and residual water runoff into the Pacific.
Beach Water Use Advisory Extended to Wednesday Morning
In the ongoing legal battle about the 2.5 acres of solar panels on a Canyon Country hillside, a Los Angeles County judge granted Santa Clarita’s request Monday to expedite a hearing on whether the city will be allowed to inspect the Canyon View Mobile Home Estates property containing the solar energy project.
Judge Expedites Hearing on City Motion to Inspect Canyon View Solar Panels
The Santa Clarita City Council will elect a new Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem in the Council's special meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, December 11, starting at 5 p.m.
Dec. 10: Santa Clarita City Council to Elect New Mayor
California State University, Northridge ranks among the top 10 universities in the country that awards undergraduate degrees to minority students, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
CSUN Among Top 10 Universities Awarding Degrees to Minority Students
A “creepy” hooded man in a black full-length trench coat seen lurking around Mountainview Elementary School in Saugus Monday morning spooked a mom and her two kids enough to call deputies and spark a temporary “soft lockdown” of the school.
‘Creepy’ Hooded Man in Trench Coat Prompts Lockdown at Mountainview
The College of the Canyons Foundation has announced that the 2020 Silver Spur Celebration honoring Bruce Fortine (pictured) will take place on Saturday, March 14, 2020, at Santa Clarita Studios.
March 14: Bruce Fortine to be Honored in COC Silver Spur Celebration
The legal battle against a Canyon Country hillside solar panel installation hit an impasse Friday as the city of Santa Clarita is seeking to inspect the property, while the owners are objecting.
Solar Panel Lawsuit: City Wants to Inspect; Owners Object
A grocery store theft turned into a struggle when a group of suspects, believed to be teens or young adults, tried to steal alcohol from Vons in Canyon Country on Sunday.
SCV Deputies Investigate Theft at Vons in Canyon Country
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies are investigating a report of a child struck in the crosswalk by a vehicle making a left hand turn onto Newhall Ranch Road, near Grandview Drive and Bridgeport Elementary School, on Monday.
Child Struck by Vehicle in Crosswalk near Bridgeport Elementary
%d bloggers like this: