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Josh McDonald

Long time lurker, first time commenter.

After reading this I find that I'm incredibly concerned about the prospect of significant icebreaker activity anywhere in the Arctic. I'm not a scientist and I often have difficulty following some of the conversation that goes on here but it seems to me that an active effort to break up the sea ice would have potentially serious ramifications on albedo and extent of new ice let alone multi-year ice. Someone please tell me how this is not a harbinger of things to come and an acceptance of the inevitability of a complete breakdown of the Arctic.

jdallen_wa

Josh McDonald -

You can set aside your fears about icebreakers; even ten times the existing fleet of breakers, dashing about constantly would have a trivial impact on the ice.

Far more open water gets created by the weather.

By the time there would be enough icebreakers built to be a hazard, the ice will have long since been reduced by climate change to the point they will no longer be relevant.

NeilT

I would have thought the biggest concern would have been the black carbon deposits from the bunker fuel of any older vessels being led through...

Given that the largest engines use about 11 litres a second. The very latest engines have been designed to be reduced in smoke, carbon deposits and sulphur, but it won't always be the very latest ships.

Kris

Neit wrote,

Given that the largest engines use about 11 litres a second.

Good or bad, that won't be of a concern as the Russians are planning to do the job with atom icebreakers. There are already some references to in this very blog, and it's that what Dmitry Rogozin was referring to when he talked about " ...we have all technological possibilities for this...".

Actually, that kind of icebreakers is strong enough to whitstand storms as the previous around Iceland (an island which really can't be situated into the Arctic).

Bill Fothergill

@ Kris,

I very nearly wrote a post along similar lines to yours, and was about to make reference to the Rosatomflot icebreakers.

However, when I re-read Neil's post, I saw that he was actually talking about...
"... the bunker fuel of any older vessels being led through..."

One would certainly hope that, even when being "led through a lead" created by an Arktika or Taymyr class breaker, any ship traversing the Northern Sea Route would still be ice-hardened, and thus less likely to be some old tramp steamer.

Also, Rosatomflot is not in business for altruistic reasons. I therefore suspect - simply on financial grounds - that their fees, even for multiple vessels being shepherded in line-astern convoy, will preclude nearly anything short of reasonably modern bulk carriers.

NeilT

Yes I get that Bill. But it is only in the last 4 years that I've seen any attempt at emission controls from the larger container ships. Even then the environmental control systems are designated as "optional", as they do decrease the fuel efficiency.

It was quite interesting to note that the fuel efficiency, basing it on fuel consumed over time, per bhp, in comparison with, say, a 60mpg (imperial), car running at optimal mpg. The latest ship engines use approximately 1/5th the fuel per litre that cars do for the same (relative), bhp.

Even so the largest container ships today burn more than 1m litres of fuel to run from Shanghai to Rotterdam, or to put it another way, around 300 thousand US Gallons.

I would not put it past shipping companies to have soot and emission filters which can be put in or out of the exhaust gas train dependent on where they are in the world and how much fuel they want to save.

That was just the point I was trying to make. That once we get shipping up there we introduce one of the very worst kind of polluters right into the environment itself.

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