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Dr. Lawson BrighamDeputy Director and Alaska office Director, US Arctic Research CommissionPhD. (Cambridge, 2000) M.S. (Rensselear Polytechnic Inst., 1979)Current Research • Arctic Climate Impact Assessment • Future Arctic Marine Transportation • Future of the Russian Arctic and Northern Sea route.


Changing Marine Access in the Arctic OceanARCUS 16th Annual Meeting & Arctic Forum 2004Washington, D.C. 13-14 May 2004

Lawson Brigham

Alaska Office, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

  • Arctic Icebreaker Operations 1977-2003
  • Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) Observations
  • ACIA Sea Ice Projections 2000-2100
  • Canadian Archipelago/Northwest Passage
  • Northern Sea Route
  • Summary
icebreaker transits to the north pole and trans arctic voyages 1977 2003
Icebreaker Transits to the North Pole and Trans-Arctic Voyages1977-2003
  • 44 transits to the North Pole

(36 Russia, 3 Sweden, 2 Germany, 2 USA, 1 Canada)

  • 5 trans-Arctic voyages

(1991, 1994, 1996)


23 August 1994 near the North Pole

Historic Rendezvous: Polar Sea,Louis S. St-Laurent, & Yamal

arctic climate impact assessment acia project of the arctic council
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) Project of the Arctic Council
  • - Evaluate: climate variability, climate change,   and increased UV and their consequences- Use of General Circulation/Global Climate Models
  • (GCMs) and Greenhouse Gas Scenarios- Project future Arctic changes for:   2020, 2050, and 2080- Sea ice changes for 20th and 21st Centuries- Scientific report & synthesis released late 2004
the arctic s response to climate change from acia
“The Arctic’s Response to Climate Change”(from ACIA)
  • Increases in winter surface air temperatures
  • Increases in precipitation
  • Thawing of previously permanently frozen ground
  • Reductions in Arctic sea ice extent and thickness
  • Variations in the ranges of animals and ecosystems
  • Increases in storm surges and coastal erosion
  • Increases in Siberian river outflows to the Arctic Ocean
  • Warming of Arctic oceanic waters
  • Record low levels of stratospheric ozone
  • Increases in ground levels of ultra violet radiation

Observational data show

a decrease of coverage

Sea Ice

  • Decrease is
  • largest in
  • summer
  • Decrease is
  • largest since
  • late 1980s

Sea Ice Extent (km2)


16 September 2002

16 September 2003


Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

Climate model projections of sea ice extent:

2000 - 2100






Challenges of the Canadian Archipelago and the Northwest Passage

  • GCM resolution constraints
  • High inter-annual variability of sea ice coverage
regional eastern arctic
Regional Eastern Arctic



Canadian Ice Service (2004)

regional western arctic
Regional Western Arctic


Canadian Ice Service (2004)


The Northern Sea Route

INSROP (1999)

Ob’ and Yenisey Rivers


Northern Sea Route: Navigability

Projected for 2000 – 2100 (50% ice cover)


summary points
Summary Points
  • -  Observed retreat of Arctic sea ice is real.-  Icebreakers have operated in the Central Arctic Ocean during summer
  • since 1977.
  • - Extensive & increasing open water areas in summer around the Arctic
  • Basin (and Alaska) projected throughout the 21st Century.- Sea ice projections for Russia's Northern Sea Route indicate an increasing
  • length of the navigation season.- Possibility for regular marine surface navigation in the Central Arctic
  • Ocean in summer by 2050.- Quantification of Arctic marine access/navigation proving challenging;
  • testing the limitations of GCMs; recognition of the need for Arctic
  • regional models.- Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: guide to current and future Arctic
  • climate  trends & consequences.

Relevant Upcoming Events

  • CITF Experts Meeting, Cambridge (September 2004)
  • Arctic Maritime Security Workshop, D.C. (October 2004)
  • ACIA Symposium, Reykjavik (9-12 November 2004)
  • International Conference –Arctic Marine Transportation, Anchorage (Spring/Summer 2005)