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


'Good Girls Revolt' Takes On Gender Bias In The Newsroom

Amazon's new series Good Girls Revolt, set in 1969, was inspired by a landmark gender bias case at Newsweek. Showrunners also hired women at every level of the cast and crew — a Hollywood rarity.

After A Long Day Of Fighting Climate Change, This Grain Is Ready For A Beer

Kernza is a kind of grassy wheat that traps more carbon in the soil than crops like wheat and rice. Now, a West Coast brewery is using the grain in its new beer called Long Root Ale.
WAMU 88.5

Why Millions Of American Men Have Left The Workforce, And How To Bring Them Back

Today’s unemployment rate is down sharply from the height of the Great Recession. But more than a fifth of American men had no paid employment last year, and seven million of them have stopped looking altogether. Why men are leaving the workforce – and how to bring them back.


Tesla Surprise: It's A Profit

The company posted a profit of nearly $22 million for the third quarter, the first quarterly profit since 2013. Tesla attributes the good results in part to new stores.

Leave a Comment

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