Climate Change and Fate of Arctic Oil Spills
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To investigate how the fate of oil released in the Arctic Ocean may change with a warmer climate, we have performed ensembles of oil spill simulations using Arctic environmental information (winds, currents, ice cover, etc.), covering the periods 2009 - 2013 and 2050 - 2054. Three different scenarios have been investigated: a well blowout, a shipping accident and a pipeline rupture. For each scenario, approximately 700 simulations were performed, with all parameters kept constant except the start date, which was chosen to be every five days during the two five-year periods covered by the available data. In this way, the underlying environmental data was sampled, allowing us to obtain statistical information on the influence of the climate on the footprint and fate of an arctic oil spill. The results mainly show that partial or full ice cover has the effect of reducing the spread of oil, due to damping the effects of wind and waves, and the ice increasingly controlling oil movements. Evaporation is also reduced. The length of oiled shoreline for the well blowout scenario is found to be almost twice as large in the future scenarios, while for the pipeline rupture and the tanker accident the amount of oil on the shore is slightly higher in the present, although there is little or no change in the length of oiled shoreline.