The Arctic climate is changing rapidly and the United States government is unprepared for the ensuing expansion of open water. The Quaternary Science Reviews supports the first point of my opening statement with the following quote, “Observations during the past several decades document substantial, accelerating retreat and thinning of the Arctic sea-ice cover. Based on climate simulations, the Arctic Ocean may become seasonally ice-free as early as around 2040” (Polyak et al., 2010). And, I hope to support the second point of my opening statement through the efforts of this project.
As the Arctic sea ice continues to retreat, how will the expansion of this open water in the Arctic impact the world? Less cooling of the ocean temperatures, more dilution of the salt water, a rise in sea levels across the globe, the exposure of untapped natural resources in the region, and the expanding open water will increase the full range of private and commercial maritime traffic in the previously unnavigable environment. Additionally, the U.S. government must be able to respond to all of those new and emerging maritime challenges both in the rescue response and in the law enforcement arenas. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, pun intended.
Ocean temperatures control the migration of the world’s food fish stocks and as the water warms the fish will move north. Of course, when the fish move north, the fisherman will soon follow. The U.S. Coast Guard will then have to operate in that environment to ensure the safety and security of the fishing fleet.
With the expanding open water, the Arctic has experienced a significant increase in off shore exploration of oil, minerals, and other natural resources. By U.S. statute, the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for inspecting the operations of the offshore rigs and enforcing the maritime security regulations upon all associated vessels and personnel.
Commercial maritime traffic in the form of “eco-tourism” will present immense rescue response and law enforcement challenges to the U.S. Coast Guard. Every vessel carrying maritime passengers must be annually inspected and boarded at sea. These annual inspections and random boardings are...