Global warming could mean new Arctic shipping routes

Research has identified another likely consequence of global warming—the increasing availability of shipping routes around the North Pole and elsewhere due to the gradual melting of sea ice, reports the New York Times.

One of the scientists, Dr. Ed Hawkins with the University of Reading, told the BBC, "If we experience a 2-degree increase in global temperatures, we will get close to an Arctic that is effectively ice-free for part of the year; that's less than a million sq km of ice cover."

He added, "So, even if future emissions are consistent with the Paris agreement, it will, of course, mean shipping routes will be more open. Not every year, but more regularly than they are now."

Sea ice currently prevents most ships from crossing through the Arctic, which would in many cases be the shortest way to travel between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

RELATED: Under the sea in Antarctica

Under the sea in Antarctica
See Gallery
Under the sea in Antarctica

Weddell seal and pup swimming underwater in Antarctica.

(Doug Allan via Getty Images)

A cable portrudes from the ice wall at Explorers Cover, New Harbor, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The cable is used for the Remotely Operable Micro-Environmental Observatory (ROMEO), an underwater camera. Connected to onshore equipment and linked by radio to

(SCIENCE SOURCE via Getty Images)

The Marbled Rockcod (Notothenia rossii) copes with the icy waters of Antarctica by means of a biological antifreeze in its body fluids, Antarctica.

(David Fleetham/Visuals Unlimited, Inc. via Getty Images)

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), key species in the Antarctic ecosystem. Grows to 6 cm and occurs in densities ranging up to 30,000 in a cubic metre. 

(Auscape via Getty Images)

Unidentified large jellyfish in brash ice, Cierva Cove, Antarctica, Southern Ocean, Polar Regions.

(Michael Nolan / robertharding via Getty Images)

Icefish in Antarctica have no scales or haemoglobin, so their blood is white.

(Doug Allan/Nature Picture Library via Getty Images)

Antarctic Sea star (Odontaster validus) in Antarctica.

(Jonathan Bird via Getty Images)

Antarctic Sea urchin, (Sterechinus neumayeri) with camouflage attached, Antarctica.

(Jonathan Bird via Getty Images)

Antarctic Limpet (Nacella concinna) in Antarctica.

(Jonathan Bird via Getty Images)

Barbed plunder fish in Antarctic underwater.

(izanbar via Getty Images)

Antarctica, Cuverville Island, Underwater view of Comb Jellyfish swimming beneath ice along plankton-filled shallow water.

(Paul Souders via Getty Images)

Orange yellow anemone surrounded by brown algae, Antarctica.

(Mathieu Meur/Stocktrek Images via Getty Images)

Two yellow sea stars and white worm strands, Antarctica.

(Mathieu Meur/Stocktrek Images via Getty Images)


The team found, based on models, that emissions under the Paris accord could reduce a 30-day journey to 22 or 23 days while higher emissions could mean 17 to 20-day-long trips, with durations shortening as times goes on.

As co-researcher Nathanael Melia wrote in a piece on the climate website Carbon Brief, "a passage through the Arctic would be around 40% shorter – potentially reducing journey times even further and saving fuel."

Despite the potential economic benefits, shippers' use of the newly opened routes could remain uncertain, as passage conditions would still be variable and other costs, like insurance, would likely go up.

Read Full Story