Transit navigation through Northern Sea Route from satellite data and CMIP5 simulations

Rapid Arctic sea ice decline over the last few decades opens new perspectives for Arctic marine navigation. Further warming in the Arctic will promote the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as an alternative to the conventional Suez or Panama Canal routes for intercontinental shipping. Here we use both satellite data and CMIP5 ensemble of climate models to estimate the NSR transit window allowing intercontinental navigation between Atlantic and Pacific regions. To this end, we introduce a novel approach to calculate start and end dates of the navigation season along the NSR. We show that modern climate models are able to reproduce the mean time of the NSR transit window and its trend over the last few decades. The selected models demonstrate that the rate of increase of the NSR navigation season will slow down over the next few decades with the RCP4.5 scenario. By the end of the 21st century ensemble-mean estimates show an increase of the NSR transit window by about 4 and 6.5 months according to RCP4.5 and 8.5, respectively. Estimated trends for the end date of the navigation season are found to be stronger compared to those for the start date.


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