Soot ahoy! Ship traffic in the Arctic

From the University of Delaware – As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline, a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge — but not without significant repercussions to climate, according to a U.S. and Canadian research team that includes a University of Delaware scientist.


If the Arctic Ocean continues to warm, new shipping lanes could emerge at the top of the world, as shown in these scenarios. An increase in shipping under current pollution controls in the Arctic could further accelerate warming. Figure courtesy of Prof. James Corbett, University of Delaware; published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Vol. 10, 2010.

Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the world’s northern reaches. And it’s more than a greenhouse gas problem — engine exhaust particles could increase warming by some 17-78 percent, the researchers say.

James J. Corbett, professor of marine science and policy at UD, is a lead author of the first geospatial approach to evaluating the potential impacts of shipping on Arctic climate. The study, “Arctic Shipping Emissions Inventories and Future Scenarios,” is published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Corbett’s coauthors include Daniel A. Lack, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.; James J. Winebrake, of the Rochester Institute of Technology; Susie Harder of Transport Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia; Jordan A. Silberman of GIS Consulting in Unionville, Pa.; and Maya Gold of the Canadian Coast Guard in Ottawa, Ontario.

“One of the most potent ‘short-lived climate forcers’ in diesel emissions is black carbon, or soot,” says Corbett, who is on the faculty of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “Ships operating in or near the Arctic use advanced diesel engines that release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change.”

Produced by ships from the incomplete burning of marine fuel, these tiny particles of carbon act like ‘heaters’ because they absorb sunlight — both directly from the sun, and reflected from the surface of snow and ice. Other particles released by ship engines also rank high among important short-lived climate forcers, and this study estimates their combined global warming impact potential.

To better understand the potential impact of black carbon and other ship pollutants on climate, including carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, the research team produced high-resolution (5-kilometer-by-5-kilometer) scenarios that account for growth in shipping in the region through 2050, and also outline potential new Arctic shipping routes.

Among the research team’s most significant findings:

  • Global warming potential in 2030 in the high-growth scenario suggests that short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigagrams of black carbon from Arctic shipping may increase the global warming potential due to ships’ carbon dioxide emissions (~42,000 gigagrams) by some 17-78 percent.
  • Ship traffic diverting from current routes to new routes through the Arctic is projected to reach 2 percent of global traffic by 2030 and to 5 percent in 2050. In comparison, shipping volumes through the Suez and Panama canals currently account for about 4 percent and 8 percent of global trade volume, respectively.
  • A Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage through the Arctic Ocean would provide a distance savings of about 25 percent and 50 percent, respectively, with coincident time and fuel savings. However, the team says tradeoffs from the short-lived climate forcing impacts must be studied.
  • To calculate possible benefits of policy action, the study provides “maximum feasible reduction scenarios” that take into account the incorporation of emissions control technologies such as seawater scrubbers that absorb sulfur dioxide emitted during the burning of diesel fuel. Their scenario shows that with controls, the amount of Arctic black carbon from shipping can be reduced in the near term and held nearly constant through 2050.

“To understand the value of addressing short-lived climate forcers from shipping, you need to know the impacts of these emissions, the feasibility and availability of technologies that could be put in place to reduce these impacts, and then engage the policy-making community to debate the evidence and agree on a plan,” Corbett notes. “Our hope is that this study will enable better communication of emerging science with policy makers and aid the eight Arctic Council nations with climate policy.”

Corbett also has led recent studies to determine the global health effects of shipping, and more recently, a comparison of the daily release of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Americans’ daily energy use.

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October 25, 2010 10:27 pm

Wow I can’t belove these people still think the ice cap is going to be gone in 20 years. And of course there’s the “we need to research this more” plug in there….

October 25, 2010 10:28 pm

I am stunned…..
They don’t want the savings in CO2 emissions? Really? They would rather more CO2 be released into the atmosphere than let ships travel a dangerous route full of ice for a couple months a year? (for a little while at least)
File this under Fear and Misinformation. I especially like the route that goes right over the North Pole.
John Kehr
The Inconvenient Skeptic

Steve (Paris)
October 25, 2010 10:32 pm

Sounds like a James Bond plot

Mark Twang
October 25, 2010 10:33 pm

“17 to 78 percent”?
Wow. Nothing like accurate numbers. These guys make economists look like soothsayers.

October 25, 2010 10:36 pm

A big assumption is made that there will be a continuous warming of the Arctic, despite all the history that says such events are brief. We’ll see.

October 25, 2010 10:38 pm

So let me get this straight. Using the Arctic Ocean saves 25-50% of fuel, meaning 25-50% less emissions. Yet somehow fewer emissions makes global warming worse?

October 25, 2010 10:52 pm

Tell me this is a joke !!!!!

Jeff Mitchell
October 25, 2010 10:52 pm

They like to project the harm, but none of the good. The arctic needs to clear before they need to worry about that. Perhaps the current el nina will set them back a few years.

October 25, 2010 10:57 pm

As a ship designer, speculative assumptions aside (ongoing open water in the arctic), the conclusions sound about right. If safe, consistent routes were to open up, significant cost savings could be made.
Every now and then someone even does calculations to see how submersible shipping would compete on these routes. The numbers are not that far off being competitive, which gives a small glimpse into how much advantage there would be.
And yes, black soot absorbs a lot more heat than white ice & snow.

October 25, 2010 11:10 pm

intuitivereason says:
October 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm
“Every now and then someone even does calculations to see how submersible shipping would compete on these routes. ”
That would be so cool – we could replace canals by big sewers.

Jason F
October 25, 2010 11:15 pm

Russia, Canada and the USA are in a race to build a fleet of nuclear powered massive ice breakers to stake their claim on the gas and oil they found up there last year.
They are going to open shipping routes, not because of global warming but because they need to build refineries and establish permanent operations up there to get to all that oil.
The BBC already had itself in knots reporting this story and trying to toe the AGW party line it was hysterical hypocrisy.

October 25, 2010 11:18 pm

Its just so sad for science, for education, for university professionalism. What kind of study is this ? Assumption on hypothesis on innuendo on theory … and oh yes .. here is the useless answer and even more useless question. And somebody no doubt is funding this.

Crispin in Waterloo
October 25, 2010 11:22 pm

Hello Mike
They are saying Black Carbon is a powerful heater – about 640 times as effective as CO2 according to Dr Tami Bond (who knows a lot about PM) and that is when CO2 is highly overrated. It is after all, black. I thought they were going to say something silly about blackening the snow (etc) but they stuck to the atmospheric heating which is well documented (the Asian Brown Cloud is a hot example).
They do not mention that at night the BC radiates more powerfully. I have not seen a detailed look at what happens when the sun stays up or down for a long time. It might make winters colder and summers warmer which would be nice. It is pretty obvious that the route is not going to be open within 10 or 20 years but given a long term (geological) view, the Arctic is naturally open water part of the year.
BC has been underrated as people sought to enhance the importance of CO2. That seems to be waning and BC will probably emerge as the new CO2. It has large health consequences especially in the ultra-fine range (PM 0.020) and diesels are a heavy source of those – especially if they are modern engines. When testing improved diesels it was found that they definintely reduce the emitted mass of PM 2.5 and PM 1.0 but vastly increase the number of far smaller particles which are now detectable. More smaller particles with the same total mass = a much higher absorbing surface area.

October 25, 2010 11:24 pm

I think most of these researchers have too much time on their hands. They really need to find a new day job. They are getting money for nothing.

Golf Charley
October 25, 2010 11:28 pm

What percentage of icebreaker shipping in the arctic is only there to tell us how bad the ice is?
Will these researchers be backing their research by investing in a trans arctic shipping company?

Malaga View
October 25, 2010 11:29 pm

a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge

and Hell may freeze over…

October 25, 2010 11:29 pm

Oh no, whatwegonnado! Ermmm… not take those routes? I mean, supposing that this was a problem at all. What kind of feedback is that? “As the world warms, mankind will behave worse and worse”. Pathetic.

Will Crump
October 25, 2010 11:32 pm

rbateman says:
October 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm
“A big assumption is made that there will be a continuous warming of the Arctic, despite all the history that says events are brief. We’ll see.”
How many times in this history of events that are brief have we had a steady supply of additional CO2 to the atmosphere and not had any warming?
(perhaps the additional CO2 produced by humans will be augmented by the reversal of the big kahuna of carbon sinks in antartica per )
We’ll see.

Paul Deacon, Christchurch, New Zealand
October 25, 2010 11:34 pm

“Global warming potential in 2030 in the high-growth scenario suggests that short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping may increase the global warming potential due to ships’ carbon dioxide emissions (~42,000 gigagrams) by some 17-78 percent.”
Marvelous stuff! I wonder how many ships burning just coal (are there any left?), with no clean air technology, to emit 4.5 gigatons of black carbon in the Arctic in just 2o years…

October 25, 2010 11:38 pm

Interesting; 4.5 gigatons of black carbon? That balanced by only 42,000 gigagrams of CO2. Is it just me, or is there a deliberate attempt, by juggling different units of mass, to confuse? What are these figures based on? Twenty years ago, there were a wide range of improvements made to marine engines to reduce carbon output. Are they now saying we have to go back to sailing ships?
When you consider the tonnage shifted by a single ship, versus the tonnage moved by a comparable train or a fleet of trucks, the Co2 and black carbon per ton moved is considerably less when the goods go by sea.

October 25, 2010 11:45 pm

“If safe, consistent routes were to open up”
A very big if. Remember that at best the northeast and northwest passages are open for a brief period in late summer. For most of the year they will always require icebreaker assistance. This will be true even if sea ice were to disappear completely in summer. Remembar that the Baltic becomes ice-free (and even bathable) every summer but it refreezes every winter. Admittedly the ice rarely becomes thicker than 3 feet, but few if any merchant ships can handle even that.

October 25, 2010 11:46 pm

4,500,000,000 tonnes of soot? If 100 days a year were ice free, and each day 100 ships were plying the Arctic waters, that would be 450,000 tonnes of soot per ship voyage day. I think that notion is off by several orders of magnitude.
If they were to try an Arctic shipping lane, the Canadian Coast Guard says it will be a nightmare managing all the navigational aids that would be required. Think of it: thousands of buoys and channel markers, each frozen into the pack ice and moved as the ice shifts. Charts would need to be updated as the Coast Guard must reposition the buoys before the shipping season opened up.

October 25, 2010 11:53 pm

Something doesn’t look right with this:
“… the high-growth scenario suggests that short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping …”
Four and a half THOUSAND MILLION tonnes of black carbon (soot) from shipping in the Arctic? Soot represents a small proportion of fuel burned (the great majority of flue gas emission is water and CO2) – how many thousand million tonnes of fuel do the researchers think is going to be burned in the short term by shipping in the Arctic?

October 25, 2010 11:59 pm

Sorry, where do they get 4.5Gigatonnes from? Our current rate of adding CO2 to the atmosphere is supposedly ~8GT of C that converts into ~26GT of CO2. I’d love to see, or maybe even do a proper analysis of that, because my guess is that there is double counting and under attribution of CO2 sequestration by human activities, going on.
So how can a relatively few ship voyages (the Arctic will only be open for a few months a year even under Serrezes’ death spiralling scary scenario), cause the same amount of carbon output as half of all other activities by 7billion souls. They’re off by about three orders of magnitude there.

October 26, 2010 12:14 am

This is nonsense. For safe operation, ships require open water. Water with no ice is open water. Ships travelling shorter distances consume less fuel. Less fuel is less black carbon released over open water.

October 26, 2010 12:24 am

26 Oct: West Australian: Paul Murray: Rock doctors are cool on global warming
Geologists remain one of the intellectual groups in which there is most concern that the science is not settled on climate change…
The latest earth scientist to weigh into the public debate is Phil Playford, the senior principal geologist at the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum. In a recent letter to the editor of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia’s newsletter, he uses a 130,000-year-old fossil coral reef on Rottnest Island to illustrate his point.
“The reef-building coral Acropora, which dominates this reef, shows that it grew when ocean temperatures were significantly warmer than now, as this coral no longer forms living reefs further south than the Houtman Abrolhos, some 500km further north,” Dr Playford wrote.
“The Rottnest reef grew during the last interglacial period of the Pleistocene, when the climate was warmer and sea level was at least 3m higher than today. Of course the atmosphere could not at that time have contained any human-induced CO2.”
So what caused the warmer temperatures and the rising sea levels at Rottnest? And are those same causes behind our modern concerns, making cuts to our carbon emissions irrelevant?
Dr Playford agrees with Professor Carter’s conclusion that anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is “the greatest self-organised scientific and political conspiracy that the world has ever seen…
My two years studying geology at the University of WA help me understand some of Dr Playford’s argument, but I remain as confused about climate change science as most laymen.
However, in the interests of keeping the debate open, readers should see another side of the debate that climate change alarmists would prefer to remain hidden.

October 26, 2010 12:29 am

This is an interesting subject as breaking up the ice to keep routes open and the soot particulates from engines are likely to be factors in future ice melt. How significant those factors will be however needs more research.
I came across a study once from around 1850 showing the soot from the US industrialisation was melting the ice in specific localised arctic areas.

October 26, 2010 12:30 am

When I become dictator – I will BAN publication of any study with a conclusion that includes the words ‘could’, ‘might’ or ‘may’, and I am not sure about the words ‘model’ or ‘ scenario’. Oh, and ‘Climate’ will get you 10 years in jail. /sarc off
Just %$#@& publish what you found and what you excluded and if you can’t argue a consequene of worthwhile probability, just let the reader do the wild speculation.
In the meantime – Anthony, I am willing to sponsor an annual contest for the most outrageously speculative and obsurd climate-related study – called perhaps the “Gold digger” award. The recent McCright “Women more likely than men to accept global warming” is my first nomination.

Will Crump
October 26, 2010 12:32 am

Don”t worry, increases in CO2 do not have a linear effect. The increases have a logarithmic effect (declining).
But it is still an effect and there may be positive feedbacks and amplification, but hopefully these are not as strong as previously thought.
dwright says:
October 25, 2010 at 10:27 pm
“Wow I can’t belove these people still think the ice cap is going to be gone in 20 years.”
You are correct, 20 years is a short period of time for the ice at the minimum extent to be gone. The decline from the 1979 to 2000 September average of 7.0 mllion km2 ( see: ) to the 2010 September average (for a recovery year) of 4.9 million km2 (see the October 4, 2010 edition of : ) has taken 10 years.
At a declining rate, it may be 30 years or more before the September average goes below 500,000 km2, which would
(a.) prove there is no warming, or
(b.) prove that there is warming, but we can not predict the pace of sea ice decline which is affected by varying rates of in place melting from higher air temperatures and basal melting from warmer ocean currents, and by accelerated ice transport out of the arctic.

October 26, 2010 12:34 am

[snip] no no no . . try an alternative

October 26, 2010 12:40 am

So the temperatures at 80°N and higher north will be a bit (can’t say how much, uncertainties are to wide) higher than today, that would result in a period in wich temperatures above freezing would be longer than it is today, by how much, days, a week or a couple of weeks?
And isn’t a warmer artic leading to more condensation and cloudforming (helped by carbon soot particles), wich in turn will reflect more sunlight and cause more percepitation wich will most of the time be in the form of snow.
But even then, those route won’t be open all year around, especially not that one over the pole. Not in the last place since halve of the time it will be to dark, to cold and ice-conditions to bad. And no, the danger of kapsizing a large boat because of ice is a reality, and no that is not limited to smaller vessels like the crab-boats from “Deadliest Catch”.
Most boats if not all are finely tuned when it comes to their balancing point, large containers vessels (wich would benefit massively from sailing on pole-routes) need a constant ballasting in order to stay upright, they even have to do this in calm conditions when they are loading and unloading in a harbour. Now imagene several hundreds to thousands of tonnes extra on top of the boat, ice that forms in near freezing condition.

October 26, 2010 12:40 am

“…enable better communication of emerging science…”
Is that the same as the settled science?

October 26, 2010 12:46 am

To calculate possible benefits of policy action, the study provides “maximum feasible reduction scenarios” that take into account the incorporation of emissions control technologies such as seawater scrubbers that absorb sulfur dioxide emitted during the burning of diesel fuel.

Here are two stories that relate to high-sulphur bunker fuel and to scrubbing of sulphur from marine-diesel exhaust:
Seawater-scrubbing of diesel exhausts on cruise ship (2007 10 29)

K-Line announces shift to Low Sulfur Fuel in the Pacific Northwest
(2007 03 23)

October 26, 2010 1:24 am

National Ice Services warn of continuing hazards to navigation in the polar seas:

John Marshall
October 26, 2010 1:26 am

You have got to keep that grant money rolling in. Bigger scares, bigger money.

john edmondson
October 26, 2010 1:31 am

It’s hard to believe that payment is available for this kind of “research”. Then again President Obama’s scientific advice comes from John Holdren. The Arctic Ocean being ice free in winter is something John Holdren apparently believes in.

Jack Savage
October 26, 2010 1:37 am

I presume it must have been some time since this lot published their last paper. Sometimes I wonder if anyone apart from a sceptic or two and a lazy enviro journalist or three pays any attention to this kind or stuff any more.
The ifs,buts and coconuts and “scenarios” scientific paper.
Maybe it will get revisited the day someone sets up a regular shipping route…that is to say, not any day soon.
Is it me, or do Professors all look so young these days? Has science died? Should we not have been told? Why do I feel so weary about it all?

David A. Evans
October 26, 2010 1:48 am

They could learn to play piano.
I gather Tom Lehrer had quite a successful career as a musical satirist.
This is satire isn’t it?

October 26, 2010 1:50 am

An article in Scientific American “What will space tourism mean for climate change?” describes the possible effects of future “Space Tourism” on climate. Michael Mills of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Darin Toohey of the University of Colorado at Boulder modelled the effects of black carbon from hydrocarbon-fuelled rockets in the stratosphere. They conclude that the carbon would be mostly confined to an irregular band centred over the launch sites (mostly in the USA), and that while insolation below that band would be reduced, the effect on the ozone layer would result in a warming at the poles.
They say that the cooling would be of the order of 0.4°C beneath the “sunshade” (2/3 of 20thC warming!) and around 1 degree increase at the poles. The original article used a figure of 600 tonnes per year of soot deposited at around 40 km altitude, and a suggested residency time for the soot of 3-10 years. That range immediately caught my eye – what figure did THEY use? The extremes would produce vastly different outcomes for the soot level. So I did a few calculations:
Area of Earth 510,000,000 (though somewhat more at 40km altitude)
Amount of soot 600 tonnes p.a., persistence of soot in atmosphere 3-10 years (from article)
Assume 10 years residency (be generous) which leads to 10% reduction per year, stabilising after 20-odd years at around 6000 tonnes, when of course loss and addition balance.
Assume area covered is 1/5 of surface area = 102,000,000 sq. km
– giving an average of 6,000,000,000/102,000,000 = 58.8 grams per sq. km (about 2 ounces)
This would be the equivalent of 1/17th of a milligram per square metre, or a dot on paper from a not-too-sharp pencil (my estimation).
This an interesting contrast with the gigatons of soot and likely effects mentioned in this post. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
The SA article can be found and the American Geophysical Union press release .

October 26, 2010 1:57 am

1.) Identify problem.
2.) Seek money to hire experts to study problem, and propose anwers.
3.) Search for experts.
4.) The experts you locate happens to be the persons doing 1.), 2.), and 3.)? How handy!

October 26, 2010 2:08 am

Hey Anthony I missed your analysis on this post.

October 26, 2010 2:15 am

“~4.5 gigatons” – the paper, not behind a paywall, is gigagrams. The press release is wrong.

October 26, 2010 2:35 am

Tim – emerging science is before they’ve decided what spin to put on it. Settled science is once they have figured the angle.

October 26, 2010 2:40 am

As I stated earlier, this is nonsense but it set me pondering if I were a scientist, what would I study? Observation and curiosity were the great drivers of discovery in the past but I see little of that in such papers as this one. Would I want to do this kind of science? No, because it is science as a job not as a vocation. We appear to have two levels of scientists, those who are looking into the next big questions out of inate interest and those that are filling time sheets. And it is the latter that need the press releases. Discover something big and the news will get out but all we get are these nebulous can/could scenarios wrapped in mumbo-jumbo and given a patina of science by acceptance from peers. A new lab coat does not a scientist make: be careful lest someone points out, as above, that you in fact are not wearing any clothes at all.

A. Robertson
October 26, 2010 3:07 am

Gosh! Does this mean that diesel ships passing through the Arctic will need particulate filters just like my diesel car. Looks like a good news story to me with 25% reduction in fuel usage on some current shipping routes.

Ian H
October 26, 2010 3:18 am

Wasn’t there a volcano in iceland that just blew millions of tons of dust and soot into that sensitive arctic environment? The soot emitted by ships would have to be absolutely insignificant by comparison.
By the way – if the ice has melted to the extent that ships are sailing through the arctic in large numbers then presumably there isn’t much ice left up there for the soot to settle on and melt, so I’m not sure what the issue is with soot.
Nuclear powered ships? … anyone?

October 26, 2010 3:44 am

Sorry, Mercahant Bankers!

October 26, 2010 4:12 am

Given this is true, then the authors are calling localized warming global warming. Yet, have we not been told the Medieval Warm Period was not global warming, but just localized warming?
I’m confused.[join the club]

October 26, 2010 4:30 am

Very simple solution – install nuclear reactors on merchant ships which navigate the Arctic.
From memory, nuclear power equates to an oil price of approx. $170 / barrel. If the journey distance is halved, the fuel usage will also halve. Using nuclear power for a journey which is 50% shorter is equivalent to paying $170 * 50% = $85 / barrel of oil for the original journey – a cost which is competitive with existing oil prices.
But it gets better. The profitability of a ship is strongly influenced by the passage time. Given a fixed rate of freight transport, halving the journey time doubles the amount of freight each ship can carry, because each ship can carry two ship loads of freight on the new polar route, in the time it took the original ship to carry one load of freight via the traditional route.
Of course, there might also be a saving from not having to pay premium port rates for fuel – nuclear ships could go for years without needing refueling, so ship owners would no longer be held hostage by monopoly fuel prices at popular destinations.
Best of all, the design problems for nuclear powered merchant ships have already been worked out – Russia already operates a fleet of nuclear powered civilian Icebreakers, to keep their waterways open. If the ice melts, and Russia doesn’t need as many icebreakers anymore, it might even be possible to convert some of these ships to merchant use – they’re certainly big enough.
All this assumes the Arctic ice actually melts, of course 😉

Grey Lensman
October 26, 2010 4:31 am

So does the annual commercial shipping in the Baltic melt the ice?
With GPS who needs buoys?
Seems the Canadian Ice road is a myth, all those diesel fumes melt the ice.
Reality where art thy sting

Alexander Vissers
October 26, 2010 4:44 am

Premature fairy tales do no good to nobody. Nobody has a clue what sea ice will be like in 20 or 50 years, more? less? beginning of an ice age? And what about “repercussion on climate” climate punished? Why even think of an ice free arctic, a terraformed planet mars, or Arsenal making champion of the premier league? “What if?” is not science, “what is?” is!

October 26, 2010 4:53 am

If you follow the link to the abstract, you’ll see the paper’s authors talk about 4.5 gigagrams of soot, not gigatons. Someone on WUWT has maybe made a transcription error?

Peter Plail
October 26, 2010 5:07 am

I don’t see that is going to be a problem since the whole thing starts out with “If the Arctic Ocean continues to warm….”.
Not worth getting worked up about until there is evidence of continuing Arctic warming.

October 26, 2010 5:38 am

The “Red Diversion” was used by the Russians before 1902 to shift their fleet to the Far East – where it got creamed by The Japanese in 1903 🙁

October 26, 2010 5:40 am

“Someone on WUWT has maybe made a transcription error?”
No, it says “gigatons” in the UD press-release. A beautiful example of “press-release science”. By the way who has ever heard of “gigagrams”? But it sure sounds bigger than megatons. Will we have teramilligrams next?

Mr Lynn
October 26, 2010 5:49 am

Ian H says:
October 26, 2010 at 3:18 am
. . . By the way – if the ice has melted to the extent that ships are sailing through the arctic in large numbers then presumably there isn’t much ice left up there for the soot to settle on and melt, so I’m not sure what the issue is with soot.

Exactly. So what’s the point of the article? More fear-mongering and rent-seeking, and never mind the logic.
Of course, the likelihood that the Arctic ice will melt enough for significant freighter traffic is vanishingly remote. So if the polar-passage routes are so much better, it would make more sense to create a lot black carbon and coat the ice every spring, to open up the sea lanes. We could even start now (cue a Popular Science article). How much black carbon would it take?
Now that’s a study that might make sense.
/Mr Lynn

October 26, 2010 5:58 am

Soot from space tourism rockets could spur climate change
Soot ahoy…
Also they’re evacuating around this potentially large erupting volcano. Merapi

October 26, 2010 6:26 am

And the Vikings can re-establish residency on Greenland and grow crops again!

Pamela Gray
October 26, 2010 6:37 am

You know, all good stories end up in remakes. The children’s stories fondly known as “Chicken Little” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” will one day be retold in ways that new generations can relate to. I’m predicting they will center around our current crop of corner Jeremiahs and their “Our World Is Coming To An End” journalistic placards. This particular version is right up there competing for the top spot in my mind.
The stalled melting of the Arctic had better get moving or else run the risk of being lapsed by ever more strident stories of its end.

Brian W
October 26, 2010 6:52 am

Say, Isn’t there a big risk in counting ones chickens before they have hatched? “If the sea ice continues to decline”,”If the Arctic Ocean continues to warm”,”could further accelerate warming.” That poor fool Harper is even committing millions to infrastructure for the coming “warm age”. And what happens “if” it never happens as planned? Idiot fools.

October 26, 2010 7:06 am

The Gray Monk says:
October 25, 2010 at 11:38 pm
Here’s the fly in the oceanic transport ointment:
Global Trade makes its money by shipping things vast distances, the further they ship and the more they ship, the more money they make. Most places on Earth could do without the overabundance of transoceanic shipping by using sources dispersed much closer to the market.
Global Trade for the sake of Global Trade Profits is grossly inefficient.

October 26, 2010 7:07 am

I wonder whether soot caused the following?

“Particulars are given regarding the big rise of winter temperatures in Greenland and its more oceanic climate during the last fifteen years.”
1937 Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

October 26, 2010 7:09 am

There appear to be multiple factors that may have contributed to a decline in Arctic Sea Ice over the last 30 years including;
1. Wind;
2. Soot/Black Carbon;
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report:
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 5;
“Black carbon emissions from ships operating in the Arctic may have
regional impacts by accelerating ice melt.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 142;
Black carbon is a component of particulate matter produced by marine vessels through the incomplete oxidation of diesel fuel. The release and deposition of BC in the Arctic region is of particular concern because of the effect it has on reducing the albedo (reflectivity) of sea ice and snow. When solar radiation is applied, reduced albedo increases the rate of ice and snow melt significantly, resulting in more open water, and thereby reducing the regional albedo further. In the Arctic region in 2004, approximately 1,180 metric tons of black carbon was released, representing a small proportion of the estimated 71,000 to 160,000 metric tons released around the globe annually. However, the region-specific effects of black carbon indicate that even small amounts could have a potentially disproportionate impact on ice melt and warming in the region. More research is needed to determine the level of impact this could have on ice melt acceleration in the Arctic and the potential benefits from limiting ships’ BC emissions when operating near to or in ice-covered regions. The potential impacts of black carbon should also be a point of consideration when weighing the costs and benefits of using in-situ burning of oil in spill response situations.”
3. Potentially the non-Black Carbon/Soot based impact of Ship Traffic including Supply/Bulk Shipping, Fishing, Passenger/Cruise Ships and Icebreakers:
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 4;
“There were approximately 6,000 individual vessels, many making multiple voyages, in the Arctic region during the AMSA survey year; half of these were operating on the Great Circle Route in the North Pacific that crosses the Aleutian Islands. Of the 6,000 vessels reported, approximately 1,600 were fishing vessels.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Pages 141 – 142;
“The AMSA has developed the world’s first activity-based estimate of Arctic marine shipping emissions using empirical data for shipping reported by Arctic Council member states. Emissions were calculated for each vessel-trip for which data was available for the base year 2004. The 515,000 trips analyzed represent about 14.2 million km of distance traveled (or 7.7 million nautical miles) by transport vessels; fishing vessels represent over 15,000 fishing vessel days at sea for 2004. Some results could be an underestimation of current emissions, given potential underreporting bias and anecdotal reports of recent growth in international shipping and trade through the Arctic.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report on Page 79;
“A specific example of where cruise ship traffic is increasing at a rapid rate is off the coast of Greenland. As Table 5.3 shows, cruise ship visits and the number of passengers visiting Greenland has increased significantly between 2003 and 2008. For example, between 2006 and 2007, port calls into Greenland increased from 157 to 222 cruise ships. The number of port calls in 2006 combined for a total of 22,051 passengers, a number that represents nearly half of Greenland’s total 2006 population of 56,901.
In 2008, approximately 375 cruise ship port calls were scheduled for Greenland ports and harbors, more than double the number of port calls seen in 2006.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 137;
“The 2004 U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy reported that, while at sea, the average cruise-ship passenger generates about eight gallons of sewage per day and an average cruise ship can generate a total of 532,000 to 798,000 liters of sewage and 3.8 million liters of wastewater from sinks, showers and laundries each week, as well as large amounts of solid waste (garbage). The average cruise ship will also produce more than 95,000 liters of oily bilge water from engines and machinery a week. Sewage, solid waste and oily bilge water release are regulated through MARPOL. There are no restrictions on the release of treated wastewater.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 84;
“During 2004-2008, there were 33 icebreaker transits to the North Pole for science and tourism. An increasing number of icebreakers and research vessels are conducting geological and geophysical research throughout the central Arctic Ocean related to establishing the limits of the extended continental shelf under UNCLOS.”
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 84;
“Map 5.6 demonstrates the surge in vessel activity in the summer season, when all of the community re-supply takes place and most bulk commodities are shipped out and supplies brought in for commercial operations. Summer is also the season when all of the passenger and cruise vessels travel to the region.”
and Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report Page 160;
“Spring break-up to mark the start of summer navigation will vary and, as happens now in more southerly seas, shippers eager to start work will test the limits of their vessels in ice.”
Given all of the non-CO2 based factors that may have impacted Arctic Sea Ice, can anyone point to a study that has attempted to isolate how much, if any, of the decline in Arctic Sea Ice over the last 30 years;
can be attributed to CO2?

October 26, 2010 7:10 am

If Black Carbon is so good at melting ice, why don’t we use it in place of Mag Chloride?
Reading between lots of lines in various press releases it melts ice regardless of the ambient air temp. It can’t damage vehicles and concrete any worse than Mag Chloride…

Rick Lynch
October 26, 2010 7:18 am

The reason ships would go through the arctic is that it’s much shorter. Therefore, they would burn less fuel and emit less CO2.

October 26, 2010 7:27 am

What about the damage to Arctic sea ice through routine encroachment by: submarines and other naval vessels; scientific researchers; cruise ships; commercial activities, including oil exploration; global warming propagandists; “explorers”; record breakers; TV nature programmers; etc, etc?

October 26, 2010 7:51 am

Follow up to part of my above post.
Merapi erupts on a tragic day for Indonesia
Merapi has produced some VEI-4± in the holocene.
Grimsvotn seems still on schedule for April. Its a big erupter, and Etna will have a large eruption within the next few years. Elbrus is a big wild one getting hot on top.

October 26, 2010 8:04 am

I don’t trust any science that use the term “Policy Makers” unless the “Policy Makers” are the subject of the study.

October 26, 2010 8:05 am

Rick Lynch
October 26, 2010 at 7:18 am
The reason ships would go through the arctic is that it’s much shorter. Therefore, they would burn less fuel and emit less CO2.
Hey, you can’t say that. It’s contra-narrative.

October 26, 2010 8:14 am

MostlyHarmless (October 26, 2010 at 1:50 am),
Thanks for pointing out that the BC figure in the article by the University of Delaware is grossly wrong.
Right, a mistake was made by someone in transcribing gigagrams to gigatons, but not by anyone at all at WUWT.
Nevertheless, the figure og ~4.5 gigatons has taken on a life of its own and is quite well liked by the usual alarmist or media organizations. A search for “short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping” on the Internet provide links to ten articles. That figure will probably increase as time goes by.
The media organizations I checked appear to credit (as does WUWT) the University of Delaware with the article that contains the so-attractive figure of ~4.5 gigatons, although I wonder whether a more correct figure of ~4,500 metric tonnes or even ~4.5 kilo metric ton would have made much difference. One figure they would not have used is ~4.5 gigagrams expressed (correctly) as 0.0000045 giga metric ton; but what is an error of a half a dozen orders of magnitude amongst climate-alarmist friends?
It is not appropriate to blame “someone at WUWT” for the transcription error. The error originated with the University of Delaware. I guess it was wrong of WUWT to accept at face value what a university had to say about the research done by its employees, but it is a good thing that the error got caught in this discussion thread. WUWT deserves full credit for that.
WUWT still is and remains the best place to find the truth about climate science.
The truth in this case is that, as MostlyHarmless illustrated so beautifully, a pencil-dot-worth of black carbon per square metre is nothing to worry about when it comes to global or arctic warming. Anyone who figures that we have to worry about that needs to get a different life.

October 26, 2010 8:14 am

“Ships operating in or near the Arctic use advanced diesel engines that release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change.”
WT? The word “Advanced” when applied to engines tends to indicate higher efficiency which in the case of diesels means more complete burning of fuel.
I think they are making this stuff up as they go along.

October 26, 2010 8:20 am

October 26, 2010 at 5:38 am
The “Red Diversion” was used by the Russians before 1902 to shift their fleet to the Far East – where it got creamed by The Japanese in 1903 🙁
This history might have played a part in the acceptance of the decision of the Emperor of Japan, to surrender to the US. I have read speculation that some Japanese officers feared vengeance from Stalin’s USSR over this.

Scott Covert
October 26, 2010 8:23 am

Just move the exhaust under the ship /sarc.

October 26, 2010 8:46 am

Anyone betting on this?

October 26, 2010 9:02 am

rbateman says:
October 26, 2010 at 7:06 am
If that were actually true we wouldn’t have an “over abundance” of transoceanic trade going on.

R T Barker
October 26, 2010 9:06 am

Warrick says:
October 26, 2010 at 2:15 am
“~4.5 gigatons” – the paper, not behind a paywall, is gigagrams. The press release is wrong.
Thanks Warrick. A sanity check is always in order when things don’t make sense.

October 26, 2010 10:05 am

“As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline…”
Well, neither of those assumptions are happening, so this entire study is based on falsehoods – go figure. Seems on par with the rest of climate junk-science.

October 26, 2010 10:07 am

Is that why they want to open the polar air routes? Would they spray “stuff” up there to make the ice melt? Another day, another fraud!

Ed Zuiderwijk
October 26, 2010 10:47 am

These projected “possible” shipping routes are hilarious. The only one viable is the red one, which has been used since the 1930-ies on and off. The reason is that the ice at the red route melts during the summer because that’s where the Gulfstream dumps its heat.
The blue route is a no-no, because even if the pole would melt the route will be saturated with icebergs and if that melt takes a holiday, well, it will be frozen stiff. The light-blue route is even now barely usable and both the light-blue and the yellow route depend on the pole melting completely, which is a nonsense on current data.
Just ask the Greenpeace canoo guys.

October 26, 2010 12:12 pm

Ed Zuiderwijk says: October 26, 2010 at 10:47 am
“These projected “possible” shipping routes are hilarious. The only one viable is the red one, which has been used since the 1930-ies on and off. ”
Here is a map with Arctic Summer Shipping Lanes in 2004;
and within this report;
Map 1.1 on Page 10 shows an Arctic map including shipping lanes and estimates of 2004 Number of Trips.

October 26, 2010 12:16 pm

Even if the Arctic ice cap melts (and I’m not betting on it), I have a hard time believing these projected shipping lanes will be of any practical use because of the lack of ports and other support facilities in the Arctic.

October 26, 2010 12:16 pm

Jerry says:
October 26, 2010 at 5:38 am
The “Red Diversion” was used by the Russians before 1902 to shift their fleet to the Far East – where it got creamed by The Japanese in 1903 🙁

It was Russians all about obtaining a warm-water port, so it is climate related. Port Arthur offered a harbour that would Ice-free all year round.
But the actual battle that creamed the Russian fleet took place in the Tsushima Straits in late may 1905 when the Baltic fleet after a voyage of 33.000 km tried to reach Vladiwostok to refuel. The Russian fleet got Pwnd when they tried to pass troughTsushima and the Japanese wasted no time in capturing the chain of the Sakhalin Islands and forced the Russians to sue for Peace.
The 33.000 km voyage around Cape Good Hope was needed since the Suez-canal was off limits because it was British hands. And the Brits where allies with Japan, since it was in their intrest that Russians would not use Vladiwostok and Port Arthur to their full potential, wich meant that aiding Russia in a war with Japan would mean the Brits would come to the aid of Japan. Basically that would mean starting a World War.
So yes, the Russians had a score to settle, the loss of Port Arthur, the Sakhalin Islands and control over Japan means that you control a better of the Pacific Ocean all year rond. All factors wich made it a smart move to surrender to the US.

October 26, 2010 1:59 pm

October 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm
Thanks for filling in the details. I learned most of this quite a while ago and my memory was getting a bit fuzzy.

October 26, 2010 2:27 pm

IF Could
None of this is “theory”. It is mere speculation by “scientists” who obviously don’t know the fundamentals of chemistry and physics (statics & dynamics, thermodynamics and electrical) and higher level math, such as theory of probablity or the nature of random distributions (let alone grade school arithmetic). And they surely know little or nothing of history.
As a person who was well trained in all aspects of intelligence work, I can assure you that if you can see only 15 0r 20 pieces of a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle, you can’t possibly see the “big picture”. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.
Of course, I am not qualified to comment as I am a mere civil engineer, who only applied the fundamentals of these branches of science and mathematics in my engineered designs.
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn’t have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

October 26, 2010 2:37 pm

tty says:
October 26, 2010 at 5:40 am
“Someone on WUWT has maybe made a transcription error?”
No, it says “gigatons” in the UD press-release. A beautiful example of “press-release science”. By the way who has ever heard of “gigagrams”? But it sure sounds bigger than megatons. Will we have teramilligrams next?

Actually it’s Gigagrams and is a proper SI unit so any scientist should know what is meant. The use of teramilligrams is improper because it mixes prefixes.

October 26, 2010 4:41 pm

“Global warming potential in 2030 in the high-growth scenario suggests that short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping…” 4.5 gt from Arctic shipping? I don’t think so.
A quick check of any atmospheric carbon cycle website will reveal that ~5.5 gigatons of carbon comes from the burning of fossil fuels for industry, power generation, heating, and transportation, etc. ~4.5 Gt is not going to come from Arctic shipping. I believe this number is off by at least two decimal places to the left.

October 26, 2010 5:24 pm

Is the effect of carbon on rotten ice and flippy floppy ice any different than real ice? Just asking…

Skeptic Student
October 26, 2010 5:33 pm

I think it’s kind of funny that the map’s legend is just the name of the colors used.

October 26, 2010 6:31 pm

A couple of things to note…
1) The red route is not exactly new. Back in 1940 when “Uncle Joe” and “Uncle Adolf” were still buddy-buddies, the German auxiliary cruiser Komet sailed from Gotenhafen eastwards across the north coast of the USSr and out the Bering Straits before undertaking some WWII commerce raiding. The source for this info is none other than that hotbed of AGW alarmism known as Wikipedia!!! See
Remember that back then the Russians did *NOT* have nuclear powered icebreakers, and there were no satellites providing photos of leads in the ice pack. Also, ancient LORAN (assuming it was still functional in WWII) doesn’t compare with modern GPS for calculating your position. If it was possible with the technology of 70 years ago, it should be trivial today.
2) An item that isn’t mentioned in the article is that you won’t have to deal with modern-day pirates. The area is too cold for third-world pirates and the coastline is mostly Russian controlled. One thing that makes the Suez and Cape Horn routes risky is that Somolian pirates, using “mother ships” to tow attack speed boats, have hijacked cargo ships up to 1,000 km off the coast of Africa. Icebergs may be risky, but at least they don’t chase you and fire at you with bazookas and rocket launchers. At the rate things are going, icebergs may be less risky.

October 27, 2010 12:14 am

Phil. says: ” ..Gigagrams and is a proper SI unit …”
Not what I was taught Phil. SI unit of mass is the kg. I would share with others who mentioned that “gigagrams” (gigagrammes?)is an odd expressionof mass and it certainly caught out the press release.
I would have much preferred this report to have quantified the mass in kilotonnes as that’s more commonly used in economic measures. The article is even confusing because it mixes grammes with tons (not tonnes)

October 27, 2010 5:23 am

Jordan says:
October 27, 2010 at 12:14 am
Phil. says: ” ..Gigagrams and is a proper SI unit …”
Not what I was taught Phil. SI unit of mass is the kg. I would share with others who mentioned that “gigagrams” (gigagrammes?)is an odd expression of mass and it certainly caught out the press release.

It’s the proper SI unit (see below) although ‘ton’ (or ‘tonne’ outside US) would also be acceptable. Lots of things that are correct catch out press officers/reporters.
From the NIST website:
“It is important to note that the kilogram is the only SI unit with a prefix as part of its name and symbol. Because multiple prefixes may not be used, in the case of the kilogram the prefix names of Table 5 are used with the unit name “gram” and the prefix symbols are used with the unit symbol “g.” With this exception, any SI prefix may be used with any SI unit, including the degree Celsius and its symbol °C.
Example 1: 10-6 kg = 1 mg (one milligram), but not 10-6 kg = 1 µkg (one microkilogram)”

October 27, 2010 5:42 am

I suspect those transpolar routes will require the development of a fleet of low-cost, nuclear powered submersible transports. Then the issue would be deep-sea thermal pollution and the occasional reactor disruption.

Charles Higley
October 27, 2010 9:20 am

“~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping”
They’ve got to be kidding that this is the soot from a year’s shipping. The ships must exhaust more carbon that their own weight at this rate.
Da dream all they want, but the Arctic ice is not going to go away. What will be going away is the dreams and the idiots who are predicting an open Arctic sea in 20 years.
I just instinctively wonder what planet they are living on to be so out of touch with the real world. These are not just armchair predictions – they come from the armchair in the closet.

October 27, 2010 10:42 am

Last time of trying. The _abstract_ says gigagrams, not gigatons.
By copying from the University’s press release, WUWT has replicated the transcription error.
Also, gigagrams is a perfectly fine SI unit. What else would they say? megakilogram?
[Fixed, thanks. ~dbs]

Jimmy Neutrino
October 28, 2010 4:36 am

Jason F.: The BBC spun story is as much a canard as this one is. There is not a “race on” to build icebreakers, the situation is that the US has let its icebreakers languish and only has a few in drydock now, believing the global warming propaganda. Russia and Canada have working icebreakers. Russia is building many more, in order to reach oil and natural gas fields in its Arctic claims. Canada is enforcing its claims with new registration policies for vessels entering what it considers Canadian waters. The Canadian maritime authorities are not all that worried about a new NW Passage opening up. But don’t trust me, look it all up for yourself.

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