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 Global warming will open unexpected new shipping routes in Arctic, researchers find

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PostSubject: Global warming will open unexpected new shipping routes in Arctic, researchers find   Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:37 am



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.

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