Laurence C. Smith, a professor of geography at the University of California - Los Angeles, and colleagues published a new study of Arctic climate change that predicts the opening of a new Northwest Passage in the next twenty years in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Mar. 4, 2013.
The researcher's predictions, based on independent studies of decreasing ice in the Arctic, assert that between 2040 and 2059 ships will be able to navigate previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean at least during a part of the year beginning in September.
The classical Northwest Passage is expected to become more passable to ships that has been strengthened against ice and possibly to all cargo vessels.
At present the Northwest Passage is passable to shipping one out of seven years and is not routinely used.
A total of 46 voyages successfully crossed the Northern Sea Route in the summer of 2012. This is the largest number of cargo vessels that have ever used the Arctic passage.
The economic benefit of shorter shipping distances is belied by the increased economic cost of heath care with increasing carbon dioxide levels. The loss of animal habitat and species is not measurable and irreplaceable.
At present the United States and Russia are tenaciously arguing rights to the new Northwest Passages, accompanying sovereignty, and the income that would be pursuant from fees.