Increased Transnational Sea Ice Transport Between Neighboring Arctic States in the 21st Century

Patricia DeRepentigny, Alexandra Jahn, L. Bruno Tremblay, Robert Newton, Stephanie Pfirman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The Arctic is undergoing a rapid transition toward a seasonal ice regime, with widespread implications for the polar ecosystem, human activities, as well as the global climate. Here we focus on how the changing ice cover impacts transborder exchange of sea ice between the exclusive economic zones of the Arctic states. We use the Sea Ice Tracking Utility, which follows ice floes from formation to melt, in conjunction with output diagnostics from two ensembles of the Community Earth System Model that follow different future emissions scenarios. The Community Earth System Model projects that by midcentury, transnational ice exchange will more than triple, with the largest increase in the amount of transnational ice originating from Russia and the Central Arctic. However, long-distance ice transport pathways are predicted to diminish in favor of ice exchanged between neighboring countries. By the end of the 21st century, we see a large difference between the two future emissions scenarios considered: Consistent nearly ice-free summers under the high emissions scenario act to reduce the total fraction of transnational ice exchange compared to midcentury, whereas the low emissions scenario continues to see an increase in the proportion of transnational ice. Under both scenarios, transit times are predicted to decrease to less than 2 yr by 2100, compared to a maximum of 6 yr under present-day conditions and 2.5 yr by midcentury. These significant changes in ice exchange and transit time raise important concerns regarding risks associated with ice-rafted contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019EF001284
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • arctic
  • climate change
  • exclusive economic zones
  • pollutants
  • sea ice
  • transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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