“Shipping Responds to Arctic Ice Decline”, NASA Earth Observatory, April 2018, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91981
“The map was created through a collaboration led by Paul Arthur Berkman, director of the science diplomacy center at Tufts University, and Greg Fiske, a geospatial analyst at the Woods Hole Research Center. The team mapped and analyzed more than 120 million data points compiled by SpaceQuest, a company that designs microsatellites that can monitor the track Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships.
Berkman, Fiske, and colleagues have found that the mean center of shipping activity moved 300 kilometers north and east—closer to the North Pole—over the 7-year span. They were particularly surprised to find more small ships, such as fishing boats, wading farther into Arctic waters. The team also plotted the AIS ship tracks against sea ice data from NSIDC and found that ships are encountering ice more often and doing so farther north each year.
Russia, China, Canada, the United States, and Iceland are leading a flotilla of nations preparing for more shipping activity in the Arctic. The Northwest Passage through Canada and the Northern Sea Route, or Northeast Passage, north of Russia and Siberia are both valued because they could significantly shorten ship transit times between Asia, Europe, and North America. But scientists and environmental advocates have serious concerns about pollution, oil spills, and disturbances to marine life, among other possible impacts. Then there is the danger to the lives of sailors plying icy waters with poor navigation charts.
Berkman is the coordinator and lead investigator of Pan-Arctic Options, an interdisciplinary, international effort to “synthesize natural and social science research, leverage future scenario planning activities, and create geospatial maps, building common interests with practical governance options (without advocacy) that will promote sustainable development of the Arctic.” The group of researchers and policy specialists provides objective information that can guide the placement of infrastructure and the management of activities such as search and rescue and pollution response.”