Study: Trans-polar shipping by midcentury

Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson

A UCLA study of Arctic sea ice melting rates indicates it will be possible for light icebreaking ships to sail across the North Pole between Asia and Europe by mid-century, reports CBC News. And at the same time Canada's Northwest Passage will be navigable by ordinary ships at least one month per summer.


The researchers used computer models of sea ice thickness between 2006 and 2015 and between 2041 and 2059 to predict the fastest shipping routes for light icebreakers and regular open-water ships under those ice conditions.

The new route through the central Arctic Ocean highlighted in the study will only be navigable by light icebreakers in the summer and will remain ice-covered in the winter, said Laurence Smith, the UCLA earth sciences researcher who led the study.

"So I certainly don't imagine it somehow supplanting the activity to the Panama or Suez Canal or anything like that," he said in an interview with CBC's "As It Happens."

Read more: North Pole shipping route could be open by midcentury