NPR : News

Filed Under:

Study Finds Climate Change To Open Arctic Sea Routes By 2050

Climate change will make commercial shipping possible from North America to Russia or Asia over the North Pole by the middle of the century, a new study says.

Two researchers at the University of California ran seven different climate models simulating two classes of vessels to see if they could make a relatively ice-free passage through the Arctic Ocean. In each case, the sea routes are sufficiently clear after 2049, they say.

The study, published Monday in the journal PNAS by Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson, found that the sea ice will become thin enough that a "corridor directly over the north pole" will open up. "The shortest great circle route thus becomes feasible, for ships with moderate ice-breaking capability."

(A great circle route is the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere, such as the Earth.)

Smith and Stephenson conclude that the opening of the new routes "heightens the urgency for a mandatory International Maritime Organization regulatory framework to ensure adequate environmental protections, vessel safety standards, and search-and-rescue capability."

According to The Guardian:

"The northern sea route has been shown to save a medium-sized bulk carrier 18 days and 580 tons of bunker fuel on a journey between northern Norway and China. Shipowners have said it can save them ?180,000-?300,000 ($235,000-$390,000) on each voyage. A direct route over the pole could save up to 40 percent more fuel and time."

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest extent on record in recent years, which has already opened up a seasonal northern route over Canada. Last year, a solo sailor in a 27-foot fiberglass sailboat was one of 18 private yachts to make the voyage.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Swiss Army Man' Directors Explain The Symbolism Behind A Farting Corpse

The directors of Swiss Army Man — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — talk to NPR's Kelly McEvers about what inspired them to make a movie about a flatulent corpse, and the deeper meaning behind it.
NPR

Can Arnold Schwarzenegger Persuade China To Eat Less Meat?

Like the U.S., China is battling obesity and climate change. So it's urging citizens to eat less meat — and spreading the word with public service ads featuring Hollywood stars.
NPR

Kansas Votes More Money For Public Schools To Avert Shutdown

Legislators, pressured by the state Supreme Court, passed a $38 million package for the state's underfunded schools. Justices had threatened to close all public schools in Kansas after this month.
NPR

Shock, Rage And Gallows Humor: A Brexit Backlash On Social Media

Young voters had overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union. Now there's a flood of anger from those who accuse older generations of choosing a future they don't want.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.