• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 16s

National Park Service predicts the future of shipping in the Bering Sea

By Lauren Frost / KNOM 3:47 PM March 4, 2017

It’s no crystal ball, but it could show us the future of Arctic shipping. A new simulation created by the National Park Service and its partners maps out projected ship traffic in the Bering Sea for the year 2025. Tahzay Jones is a coastal ecologist with the National Park Service, and he helped this simulation come to life.

“There’s already projections about how much traffic is going to increase,” Jones said. “And what we really wanted to get at was, what does that actually look like?”

In the simulation video, colorful dots representing vessels sail up and down the Alaskan coast.

“If you imagine, like, a train track or something, we create boat tracks that these little boats can go back and forth on,” Jones explained.

Most dots are clustered around the Aleutian Islands. But it’s the Bering Strait region that will see the greatest increase in traffic in the next decade. Between two and eight percent of ships that currently pass through the Suez and Panama canals are expected to start using the Northwest Passage instead.

Overall, the simulation predicts that between 115 and 275 more ships will pass through the Bering Sea during the most active month of the 2025 season. And those numbers don’t include one category of vessel that the region may see a lot more of soon: cruise ships.

Tahzay Jones, a coastal ecologist with the National Park Service. Photo courtesy of Tahzay Jones via KNOM

“We just haven’t had enough cruise ships in the area to understand all of their routes,” Jones said. “I mean, we had one that went through last year. And so, that’s the only track that we have for large cruise ships that would potentially be going through the Bering Strait, and that’s not enough to really base a model on.”

However, the model could be adapted in the future once cruise ship patterns are established. In the meantime, Jones’ task is to determine how the simulation can be used to prepare people living on the Alaska coast for an increase in traffic.

“It’s one thing to create a model,” he said. “And then it’s another thing to say, ‘how does this model actually apply to community needs, to management planning needs, those kinds of things?’”

Jones visited Nome this week to meet with Kawerak Inc. representatives and share the potential uses of his project. Those uses include predicting the location of oil spills and determining which animal populations might be threatened by traffic or noise disturbances. He also asked the representatives for suggestions of species that may be especially at risk. This collaboration with communities is important to Jones because he says the undertaking started with them.

“This project itself was really conceived and developed not as an agency-derived thing, but more so, it was very specifically an issue that communities had been conveying to the Park Service, and the Park Service saying, ‘I think that there might be a way we can address this,’” he said.

Of course, the real impact of the Arctic shipping boom won’t be known for certain until 2025.

This story originates from KNOM Radio Mission and was published with permission.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    “Groundbreaking” technology restores movement in paralyzed man

    by Ashley Welch / CBS News on Mar 28, 20:42

    For the first time, a paralyzed man has regained functional arm movement and is able to feed himself using his own hand as a result of new technology that reconnects his brain with his muscles. Bill Kochevar, now 53, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a bicycle accident eight years ago that left him completely […]

  • Sports

    Dimond Lynx cap off magical season

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 20:37

    The Dimond High School Lynx had one of those years: nine seniors will ride off with a 4A state title. Head coach Brad Lauwers and three of those seniors stopped by KTVA on Tuesday to sit down with Dave Goldman to discuss the championship run. Follow KTVA 11 Sports on Facebook and Twitter. Did you […]

  • News

    House votes to block Obama-era online privacy rules

    by Associated Press on Mar 28, 20:25

    The House has voted to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration. It’s the first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers. The Federal Communications Commission rule was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet […]

  • News

    Some Juneau property values will increase, city officials say

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 19:24

    About 60 percent of homeowners in Juneau will see the value of their homes increase, according to city officials. The City and Borough of Juneau’s assessor office mailed out property value notices Tuesday, an annual requirement under state law. The city has more than 12,600 taxable properties across more than 20 geographic neighborhoods. Many residential neighborhoods have homes […]

  • Politics

    State and local lawmakers call for more transparency on health care costs

    by Liz Raines on Mar 28, 18:57

    The price of health care in Alaska is higher than anywhere else in the nation. With national reform on the back burner, state lawmakers in Juneau are joining with the Anchorage Assembly in demanding more transparency from health care providers. Both local and state officials want to put a price tag on procedures. Last month, the […]

  • Politics

    Anchorage School District wants voters to say yes to bond package

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 28, 18:50

    The Anchorage School District is hoping the second time’s a charm when it comes to approving school bonds in the upcoming April election. Voters narrowly defeated the district’s bond package last year. Mike Nero, the director of capital planning and construction for the district, said the $58.5 million bond proposal will pay for roof replacements […]

  • Weather

    Hello spring? Anchorage may get 5 to 9 inches of snow overnight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 16:41

    The National Weather Service says Anchorage residents should expect between 5 and 9 inches of wet snow through Wednesday morning. The NWS issued a winter weather advisory that will be in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday. Watch the entire KTVA Weather forecast at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. “Periods of snow […]

  • Weather

    KTVA Weather Lab: Aquarian Charter School

    by Melissa Frey on Mar 28, 15:56

    In this week’s KTVA Weather Lab, I visited Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage, where the second and third graders in Ms. Sarah and Ms. Stacy’s classes have been tracking the weather all year. I also answered the question of the week: What do meteorologists do on an average day? Every Tuesday, Melissa Frey will take the KTVA […]