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Impact of climate change and seasonal trends on the fate of Arctic oil spills

Nordam, Tor, Dunnebier, Dorien A. E., Beegle-Krause, CJ, Reed, Mark, Slagstad, Dag
Ambio 2017 v.46 no.Supplement 3 pp. 442-452
accidents, climate change, hydrologic models, ice, mathematical models, oil spills, prediction, shipping, shorelines, Arctic region
We investigated the effects of a warmer climate, and seasonal trends, on the fate of oil spilled in the Arctic. Three well blowout scenarios, two shipping accidents and a pipeline rupture were considered. We used ensembles of numerical simulations, using the OSCAR oil spill model, with environmental data for the periods 2009–2012 and 2050–2053 (representing a warmer future) as inputs to the model. Future atmospheric forcing was based on the IPCC’s A1B scenario, with the ocean data generated by the hydrodynamic model SINMOD. We found differences in “typical” outcome of a spill in a warmer future compared to the present, mainly due to a longer season of open water. We have demonstrated that ice cover is extremely important for predicting the fate of an Arctic oil spill, and find that oil spills in a warming climate will in some cases result in greater areal coverage and shoreline exposure.