Shipping traffic through the Arctic Ocean: Spatial distribution, seasonal variation, and its dependence on the sea ice extent

Rodríguez,Jorge P.;Klemm,Konstantin;Duarte,Carlos M.;Eguíluz,Víctor M.
iScience 27, 110236 (2024)

The reduction in sea ice cover with Arctic warming facilitates shipping through remarkably shorter shipping routes. Automatic identification system (AIS) is a powerful data source to monitor Arctic Ocean shipping. Based on the AIS data from an online platform, we quantified the spatial distribution of shipping through this area, its intensity, and the seasonal variation. Shipping was heterogeneously distributed with power-law exponents that depended on the vessel category. We contextualized the estimated exponents with the analytical distribution of a transit model in one and two dimensions. Fishing vessels had the largest spatial spread, while narrower shipping routes associated with cargo and tanker vessels had a width correlated with the sea ice area. The time evolution of these routes showed extended periods of shipping activity through the year. We used AIS data to quantify recent Arctic shipping, which brings an opportunity for shorter routes, but likely impacting the Arctic ecosystem.

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