A geospatial analysis of Arctic marine traffic
University of Cambridge
Scott Polar Research Institute
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Eucker, W. (2012). A geospatial analysis of Arctic marine traffic (doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16315
Recent changes in Arctic Ocean climate dynamics and marine activity in the region require re-evaluation of physical operating conditions, ship traffic patterns, and policy requirements. This study used (1) government surveys, (2) vessel reports, and (3) Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages to characterize the spatial and temporal variability of surface vessel traffic in relation to various sea-ice conditions on the Arctic Ocean during a year-long study from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011. Data sources, methods of analysis, and errors were discussed. Three principal topics were examined. First, sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean was analysed to determine the physical access for marine operations. Daily sea-ice concentration data based on satellite passive microwave measurements were used to calculate the extent of open water and duration of the sea-ice season. Second, ship traffic on the Arctic Ocean was analysed to determine the present patterns of human activity. Time-stamped AIS messages encoded with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positions received by a commercial satellite constellation from north of the Arctic Circle (66·56°N) were used to calculate the distribution of vessels per unit area. Satellite AIS data from SpaceQuest, Limited, were compared with land-based vessel observations during the study period from the Marine Exchange of Alaska and the Port of Longyearbyen. Third, the spatial and temporal relationship between sea ice and surface vessels on the Arctic Ocean was analysed to determine potential policy implications. Three groups of marine operations with distinct characteristics were determined from the analysis: operations in perennial open water, operations in the seasonal ice zone, and operations in the perennial ice zone. Throughout the study year, most ships north of 66·56°N operated in perennially icefree areas, but year-round operations also occurred in ice-covered areas. The results from this study identify new pathways of information to enable consistent pan-Arctic assessment of physical operating conditions and ship traffic patterns. This approach provides novel considerations to sustainably develop a safe, secure, and environmentally protected Arctic Ocean.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16315