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Expert: Arctic ice thawing may affect Northern Sea Route navigation

Due to the shrinking ice areas in the Arctic, the so-called mesocyclones will be more often in that region

BARENTS SEA, June 29. /TASS/. The ice thawing in the Arctic Ocean may cause certain problems and may affect the Northern Sea Route navigation, an expert in meteorology and climate at the Saratov State University, Maxim Chervyakov, told TASS onboard the Professor Molchanov RSV during the Arctic Floating University’s expedition.

"As for the growing ice-free water areas - yes, we say [it is favorable for navigation] that there will be more water, and we can extend the navigation term. However, this change causes a number of problems. First: cyclones, that move through the Arctic, are moving along the open water, along the land-water border. Thus, the more water, the more cyclones. Cyclones always mean certain unrest, that is storms. A storm, as you well understand, is not the most pleasant phenomenon for sailing," he said. "The waves’ height is growing as well - this is the second factor."

Due to the shrinking ice areas in the Arctic, the so-called mesocyclones will be more often in that region. While cyclones are atmospheric vortices, taking areas of several hundred kilometers or more, mesocyclones are much smaller in diameter, and they emerge much faster. Noteworthy, the air speed inside them jumps extremely quickly.

The wave height is growing, since the fading ice gives way to the space, where waves can "speed up." The bigger is their running distance, the higher are the waves. More often sea storms and higher waves cause further degradation of the coastline. For example, on the Franz Josef Land’s Alger Island scientists have registered the coastline annual abrasion growth from one to two meters. "A port is on the coastline, thus this coast needs extra fortification, since waves are growing higher," the expert said. "Waves are a big problem causing coast degradation."

The waves ruin glaciers. Hence appear many more icebergs which also threaten the navigation.

How port infrastructures are affected

The coastal infrastructures, which in the Arctic region most often have been built on the perennially frozen ground, will also suffer from the processes inside the permafrost. "The infrastructures will fail. We’ve seen certain problems already, like, for example, in Norilsk," the scientist continued. "The situation about ports is similar."

"Suffice to say, we know the permafrost is also ashore, and on it stand houses on stilts. Besides, the permafrost is also beneath underwater structures, underwater ice lenses," he added, stressing these factors are also very important to note.

The Arctic Floating University is a joint project of the Northern Arctic Federal University (NAFU) and the Northern Department for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Sevhydromet). This year, the project is ten years old. The partners in 2022 are the Russian Geographical Society, the Ministry for Development of the Far East and Arctic, VTB, Novatek, Norilsk Nickel, Rosneft, and the Arkhangelsk Region’s government.