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Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage compared with currently used shipping routes

Climate models project that summer sea ice in the Arctic Basin will retreat further and further away from most Arctic landmasses, opening new shipping routes and extending the navigation season in the Northern Sea Route by between two and four months. Previously frozen areas in the Arctic may therefore become seasonally or permanently navigable, increasing the prospects for marine transport through the Arctic and providing greater access to Arctic resources such as fish, oil and gas. In addition to increased cargo shipping, opening of sea routes such as the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage will probably increase the number of tourist cruises and passenger vessels in Arctic waters. In the Antarctic, reduced sea ice might provide safer approaches for tourist ships and new opportunities for sightseeing around Antarctica, but may also increase the risk of environmental impacts. Increased calving of icebergs from the Antarctic Peninsula may, however, affect navigation and shipping lanes. Although tourism is expected to experience a longer season in both the Arctic and Antarctic, the industry is highly dependent upon weather conditions. A more unpredictable and rainier climate might reduce the attractiveness of some areas. Please note that Northern Sea Route was previously known as Northeast passage.

Year: 2007

From collection: Global Outlook for Ice and Snow

Cartographer: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

Tags: Antarctica Arctic tundra Climate Change Indigenous Peoples polar bear

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