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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  2. Sea ice levies an impost on maritime navigability in the Arctic, but ice cover diminution due to anthropogenic climate change is generating expectations for improved accessibility in coming decades. Projections of sea ice cover retreating preferentially from the eastern Arctic suggest key provisions of international law of the sea will require revision. Specifically, protections against marine pollution in ice-covered seas enshrined in Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea have been used in recent decades to extend jurisdictional competence over the Northern Sea Route only loosely associated with environmental outcomes. Projections show that plausible open water routes through international waters may be accessible by midcentury under all but the most aggressive of emissions control scenarios. While inter- and intraannual variability places the economic viability of these routes in question for some time, the inevitability of a seasonally ice-free Arctic will be attended by a reduction of regulatory friction and a recalibration of associated legal frameworks. 
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  3. Abstract We present a tracking algorithm for synoptic to meso- α -scale Arctic cyclones that differentiates between cold- and warm-core systems. The algorithm is applied to the ERA5 reanalysis north of 60°N from 1950 to 2019. In this dataset, over one-half of the cyclones that meet minimum intensity and duration thresholds can be classified as cold-core systems. Systems that undergo transition, typically from cold to warm core, make up 27.2% of cyclones and are longer lived. The relatively infrequent warm-core cyclones are more intense and are most common in winter. The Arctic-wide occurrence of maritime cyclones has increased from 1979 to 2019 when compared with the period from 1950 to 1978, but the trends have high interannual variability. This shift has ramifications for transportation, fisheries, and extractive industries, as well as impacts on communities across the Arctic. 
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  6. Abstract

    As Arctic open water increases, shipping activity to and from mid- and western Russian Arctic ports to points south has notably increased. A number of Arctic municipalities hope increased vessel traffic will create opportunities to become a major transshipment hub. However, even with more traffic passing these ports, it might still be economically cheaper to offload cargo at a more southern port, which may also result in lower emissions. Ultimately, the question of whether to use a transshipment in the Arctic versus an established major European port is determined by the relative costs (or emissions) of sea versus land travel. This study calculates the relative competitiveness of six Norwegian coastal cities as multimodal hubs for shipments. We quantify the relative prices and CO2emissions for sea and land travel for routes starting at the Norwegian–Russian sea border with an ultimate destination in central Europe and find that all existing routes are not competitive with routes using the major existing Port of Rotterdam (Netherlands); even with investments in port expansion and modernization, they would be underutilized regardless of an increase in vessel traffic destined for central Europe. We then examine under what relative prices (emissions) these routes become economically viable or result in lower emissions than using existing southern ports. Notably, the cheapest routes generally produce the lowest emissions, and the most expensive routes tend to have the largest emissions. Communities should consider relative competitiveness prior to making large infrastructure investments. While some choices are physically possible, they may not be economically viable.

    Significance Statement

    Climate change, while disruptive, can also create new opportunities. Many Arctic cities hope to become a major transshipping hub as declining sea ice opens new shipping routes from western and mid-Russian Arctic ports to European ports. This paper quantifies the relative competitiveness of six Norwegian coastal cities as multimodal transportation hubs and finds that they are uncompetitive with the more southern port in Rotterdam (Netherlands). We also show that the most economically competitive routes have lower direct emissions. Thus, while Arctic ports provide critical services in support of local and regional economic activity, even with year-round Arctic navigation Arctic ports’ development into major transshipment hubs for cargo destined for more distant locations may be neither economically viable nor desirable.

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