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Potential for Polluted Sea Ice to Drift into Nature Reserves in the Barents Sea

Author(s): Chris Petrich; Martin Arntsen; Benyamin Akdemir

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Abstract: Industrial activity in the Barents Sea results in the need to assess the potential of accidental pollution and response options into areas of both sides of the ice edge. This study tests the basic hypothesis that oil spills in potentially ice-covered waters of the Southern Barents Sea could conceivably reach areas with special protection status, such as the Bjornoya (Bear Island) Nature Reserve, Svalbard. A free-drift model of sea ice has been driven with atmospheric and oceanic reanalysis data of the current century. Results show that inter-annual variability of drift is considerable and governed by winds. The potential source areas include the latitude of Bear Island, and extend into the Russian part of the Barents Sea in some years. The core results are insensitive to the drift parameterization and ocean currents. This study confirms the hypothesis that ice contaminated in commercially interesting areas of the Barents Sea may reach Bear Island. The positive test of the hypothesis motivates detailed studies on a range of potentially mitigating processes for a quantitative assessment of impact risks. Processes to be considered include ice melt and decay processes during drift, the timing of oil surfacing and release from ice, drift of closed pack ice, and any correlation between ice extent and drift direction.


Year: 2016

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