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2018 September Monthly Report


Highlights

The NSIDC derived data indicate that Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its seasonal minimum extent on September 23rd at 4.58 million square kilometers (Figure 6, http://akclimate.org/node/1379). Unless late season melt or changing winds cause further shrinkage, September 23rd marks the end of the Arctic sea ice melt season for 2018. This ties 2018 for the sixth lowest minimum extent in the satellite record along with 2008 and 2010. The twelve lowest Arctic sea ice extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last twelve years.

Arriving in St. Petersburg on September 28, the Danish cargo ship Venta Maersk successfully completed a historic trial passage of the Northern Sea Route. The Venta Maersk is an ice-class vessel and as such is specifically designed to operate in cold waters. While the trial was successful, the Maersk shipping company currently does not see the Northern Sea Route “as a viable commercial alternative to existing east-west routes.” Nonetheless, the Venta Maersk’s successful voyage marks another milestone for commercial shipping in the Arctic. As sea ice conditions change and ice extent diminishes, international political and economic interests remain keenly focused on potentially profitable new routes becoming accessible to commercial shipping traffic.

Following damaging storms in August, the North Slope Borough filed a disaster emergency declaration in early September. This gave the Borough access to 22,000 sandbags from the US Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily protect the area behind a damaged seawall. Declining sea ice has exacerbated storm damage in the fall season along the Utqiaġvik coastline.