Complete Transits through the Arctic between the Atlantic and Pacific

 Satellites have provided a precise instrument for constantly observing shifts in the Arctic ice since 1979. Every summertime the Arctic ice cover decreases to what researchers name its "minimum" before winter begins and ice cover increases.

The visualization below shows the annual minimum Arctic sea ice extent from 1979 through 2020.

In 2020, the Arctic minimum sea ice-coated area was 3.36 million sq km (1.30 million sq. km). 

In 2021 the minimum extent of Arctic sea ice decreased to 4.72 million sq km (1.82 million sq mi). It's 12th-Lowest on Record.

Such changes will have a marked effect on the global economy and geopolitics.

The beginning of operating shipways such as the Suez Canal has resulted in tremendous economies in the trip distance and thus costs for the transportation business. A comparable alternative could be opened up in the coming decades by cruising through the Arctic.

Nowadays, whole transits over the Arctic are infrequently performed; the causes for this are the long times these courses are blocked by sea ice. In 2019 the maximum sea ice extent was reported in March and touched its lowest extent in September. Parts of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route are used during the year. However, total transportation within the Atlantic and Pacific Atlantic oceans is only available for several weeks a year and is subject to significant yearly fluctuations. 

The animation below created by Reddit user marshnello using European Commission data shows the changes in sea ice concentration and its impact on the usability of the main seaways for complete transits.

Arctic Routes

Currently, the Northwest Passage route is primarily used by small ships without commercial usage, whereas the Northern Sea Route is now used by several freight ships and tankers. With the extra yearly melting of sea ice due to the consequences of global warming and probably growing oil prices, the arctic routes could increase as worthwhile options in the future.


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