Cargo ship attempts to sail from China to Europe via Northeast Passage as climate change melts sea ice to open Arctic ‘short-cut’

The Daily Mail reports:

A Chinese cargo ship is attempting to sail to Europe via an Arctic ‘short-cut’ that could shave almost two weeks off the journey time.

Shipping firm Cosco Group’s vessel the Yong Sheng, a 19,000-tonne freighter, set sail from Dalian, China, on Tuesday bound for Rotterdam, in a bid to complete the country’s first ever commercial transit of the Northeast Passage over Russia.

The northerly journey via the Bering Strait, which the changing climate is making possible for longer periods thanks to melting sea ice, is expected to take 35 days – compared with the 48 days it takes to complete the traditional route through the Suez Canel and the Mediterranean Sea.

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3 thoughts on “Cargo ship attempts to sail from China to Europe via Northeast Passage as climate change melts sea ice to open Arctic ‘short-cut’”

  1. Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis reports:

    Following rapid ice loss in the first half of July, the pace of seasonal ice retreat slowed the rest of the month partly due to the return of a stormy weather pattern over the central Arctic Ocean. The timing of melt onset for 2013 was in general unremarkable. Ice extent remains below average on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, and near average in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and along the Eurasian coast.

    Sea ice extent for July 2013 averaged 8.45 million square kilometers (3.26 million square miles). This is 1.25 million square kilometers (483,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month (Note that on July 2, 2013, NSIDC began using a new 30-year baseline for analyzing sea ice.). Ice extent remains below average on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, and is near average to locally above average in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and along much of the Eurasian coast.

    Conditions in context

    Figure 2. The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of August 4, 2013, along with daily ice extent data for five previous years. 2013 is shown in blue, 2012 in green, 2011 in orange, 2010 in pink, 2009 in navy, and 2008 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. Sea Ice Index data.||Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center|High-resolution image
    Figure 2. The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of August 4, 2013, along with daily ice extent data for five previous years. 2013 is shown in blue, 2012 in green, 2011 in orange, 2010 in pink, 2009 in navy, and 2008 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. Sea Ice Index data.

    Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
    High-resolution image

    While sea ice extent retreated rapidly through the first two weeks of July when the weather was dominated by high pressure and clockwise winds over the central Arctic Ocean, the pace of ice loss for the last half of the month was slower. This was partly due to the return of a stormy pattern that brought more counterclockwise winds and cool conditions, and spread the ice out. This spreading of the ice, or ice divergence, can result in more dark open water areas between individual floes that enhance absorption of the sun’s energy, leading to more lateral and basal melting. However, the effects of cooler conditions and ice divergence on the overall ice extent depend in part on the thickness of the ice. Historically, stormy summers tended to end up with more ice than summers
    characterized by high pressure and few storms. As the ice cover has thinned, stormy conditions may actually help to remove more ice.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  2. The Bering Strait doesn’t freeze over, if I understand correctly, and ice retreat from the northern shores of Russia and Europe is normal each season. It may be that there are occasional opportunities to use the Northeast Passage, as there have been occasional chances to use the Northwest Passage. The season to do so will be short and perhaps unreliable.
    So will we hear if the voyage has to be retrieved by an icebreaker?

  3. “So will we hear if the voyage has to be retrieved by an icebreaker?” I doubt there will be any reports unless it makes it through.

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