The Northern Sea Route in 2022

On June 17th the Northern Sea Route Administration published the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute forecast of ice conditions for June to August 2022. Here’s the summary:

“Favorable” conditions in most areas, but “average” in the eastern East Siberian Sea and south west Chukchi Sea.

Traffic along the main Northern Sea Route has already begun. Marine Traffic reveals that the liquified natural gas carrier Nikolay Yevgenov is heading for the Bering Strait and has already sailed north of the New Siberian Islands. He is now entering the “average” ice area in the eastern ESS:

Meanwhile the recently commissioned nuclear powered icebreaker Sibir is patiently waiting in the Vilkitsky Strait:

The Northern Sea Route is evidently already “open” for ice hardened LNG tankers, but not yet for more conventional vessels. Here is the current AMSR2 sea ice concentration map:

There is already plenty of open water in the Laptev Sea, but as suggested by the AARI forecast that does not yet apply to the East Siberian Sea.

[Edit – June 30th]

The fast ice in the Vilkitsky Strait has started breaking up:

“True colour” image of the Vilkitsky Strait on June 29th from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite

[Edit – July 16th]

Using our traditional metric of areas with 6/10 sea ice concentration or less on the official charts being navigable by hypothetical “small craft” the Northern Sea Route is now “open”. Here’s the July 15th chart for the East Siberian Sea which reveals that a narrow gap has opened up past the entrance to Chaunskaya Bay:

Note however that AMSR2 shows the presence of sea ice in locations where the official charts do not:

As indeed does MODIS:

“False colour” image of the New Siberian Islands on July 14th from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite

[Edit – August 9th]

It appears as though AARI were listening to my complaint yesterday. After an absence of several weeks a new set of regional ice charts were posted today. Here is the East Siberian Sea:

It’s still firmly closed to non ice hardened traffic east of Pevek.

[Edit – August 21st]

The AARI charts from August 19th finally show a narrow route through the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas with <= 6/10 concentration sea ice:

[Edit – August 30th]

Today’s AARI charts now show an ice free route south of Wrangel Island:

[Edit – September 29th]

The AARI regional charts are conspicuous by their absence again. However MODIS reveals that the Vilkitsky Strait now appears to be closing fast, but it isn’t quite there yet?

“False colour” image of the Vilkitsky Strait on September 29th from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite
“False colour” image of the Vilkitsky Strait on September 29th from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

Watch this space!

13 thoughts on “The Northern Sea Route in 2022

  1. Nikolay Yevgenov has reached open water in the Chukchi Sea:

    Meanwhile Sibir is escorting another ice hardened LNG carrier, Georgiy Brusilov, through the Vilkitsky Strait:

  2. Having successfully negotiated the Vilkitsky Strait Georgiy Brusilov is heading for the Bering Strait alone:

    Meanwhile Sibir has returned to the Kara Sea to await its next customer.

  3. Eduard Toll is nearing the Bering Strait and Ice Eagle is following Sibir towards Pevek:

    Svyatoy Petr (Saint Peter) and Ruslana are waiting near the ice edge in the Chukchi Sea, perhaps for assistance from Sibir on their voyage west?

    Meanwhile another liquified natural gas carrier, Boris Davydov, is about the leave the Laptev Sea heading east:

  4. Rudolf Samoylovich, another LNG carrier, has made it through the Vilkitsky Strait heading for the Far East:

    Meanwhile Boris Davydov has reached the Chukchi Sea whilst Saint Peter and Ruslana have begun their voyage west behind Sibir.

  5. With over 50 ships now using the Northern Sea Route it’s impractical to track them individually.

    Sibir is currently escorting conventional vessels through the remaining ice in the East Siberian Sea:

    Meanwhile Taymyr is leading a convoy through the Vilkitsky Strait:

    whilst LNG continues to flow to the Far East courtesy of Nikolay Urvantsev, currently crossing the East Siberian Sea unaccompanied:

  6. The NSRA seem to have given up on updating their regional sea ice charts. The Arctic wide one is now being updated 2 weeks in arrears.

    This only looks like 2 ships when zoomed out to reveal some adjacent land, but this is actually a convoy of 4:

    Eduard Toll leading 3 other LNG carriers through the remaining ice in the East Siberian Sea towards Sabetta. Clean Ocean, Clean Planet and Clean Vision!

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