Researchers Map Seven Years of Arctic Shipping – gCaptain
This map shows unique ship visits to Arctic waters between September 1, 2009, and December 31, 2016.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
To illustrate this increase in ship activity in the Arctic, a team of scientists has banded together to analyze and map more than 120 million data points in order to track where ships are most using the region.
To make the map, the team, led by Paul Arthur Berkman, director of the science diplomacy center at Tufts University, and Greg Fiske, a geospatial analyst at the Woods Hole Research Center, used data compiled by SpaceQuest, a company designs microsatellites that can monitor the track Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships.
Once the data was plotted, there were some interesting observations to be made.
Looking at the data, Berkman, Fiske, and their colleagues found that the mean center of shipping activity moved 300 kilometers north and east—closer to the North Pole—over the 7-year span.
Notably, they were particularly surprised to find more small ships, such as fishing boats, wading farther into Arctic waters. The team also plotted the AIS ship tracks against sea ice data from NSIDC and found that ships are encountering ice more often and doing so farther north each year.
Despite the seemingly growing opportunities for shipping, the increasing number of ships in the region has given rise to serious concerns about pollution, oil spills, and disturbances to marine life, among other possible impacts.