Arctic Ocean sea ice export: a cautionary tale for ship navigation in the Canadian Arctic
Dr. Stephen Howell
Climate Research Division, Environment Climate Change Canada
Climate change has driven reductions in sea ice and this in turn has facilitated increased ship traffic across the Arctic. The latest-state-of-the-art climate models project profound shifts in ship-accessible season length, with 100% navigation probability for part of the year, regardless of vessel type, above 2 °C of global warming for many regions within the Canadian Arctic, including the Northwest Passage. However, climate models do not capture local-scale ice dynamic processes that pose hazardous conditions to ships transiting through the Canadian Arctic. One such process is the collapse of the ice arches in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Nares Strait that allows thick multi-year ice from Arctic Ocean to flow southward into shipping lanes. Satellite derived sea ice motion from RADARSAT-1, RADARSAT-2, Sentinel-1, and the RADARSAT Constellation Mission was used to document the sea ice area (and volume) flux through these regions since 1997. Results indicate that these regions are becoming even larger outlets for Arctic Ocean ice area loss because of climate change. Continuation of this process will be problematic for the maritime industry.
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