Monday, August 1, 2022

Arctic Warming Far Faster than Expected, Threatening Russian Dominance of Northern Sea Route

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 8 – A group of scholars has concluded that the Arctic, already known to be warming more rapidly than any other region of the world, is in fact warming four times faster had been predicted before, simultaneously keeping the Northern Sea Route open far longer each year and making it more difficult and expensive for Russia to develop support units on shore.

            The study, “Annual Mean Artic Amplification 1970-2020” by Peter Chylek and others was published at the end of June in the Geophysical Research Letters series. It has now been summarized by The Barents Observer (

            The science behind the paper’s argument is complicated, but the geo-economic and geo-political consequences of its conclusion are not, as dramatic as they will be. On the one hand, warming will reduce the ice cover in the North and thus allow the passage of more ships without icebreaker support for a longer period each year.

            And on the other, the melting of the permafrost which underlies most of the Russian North will make it more difficult and more expensive for Moscow to develop the shore-based infrastructure needed not only to support the Northern Sea Route but also to develop a region Vladimir Putin has identified as central to Russia’s national security.

            Both of these consequences of the more rapid warming of the Arctic will mean that Russia will not be able to count on the climate to help it dominate the Arctic in the way that it has and will allow other countries to make inroads in an area Moscow has long considered its exclusive domain.

            That does not mean that a new era of peaceful commercial use of this area is dawning, however. Instead, it likely means that Putin and his regime will take other steps to ensure their continuing dominance, such as limiting shipping by other means that may make a conflict there between Russia and the outside world more rather than less likely.

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