The extent of sea ice is decreasing in the Arctic due to the climate change, which opens up new opportunities for maritime activities like shipping and oil and gas drilling. However, these activities can have serious impacts on the fragile arctic environment. One of the major risks is accidental oil spills, which can have long-lasting consequences on the marine and coastal ecosystems. Oil breaks down slowly in cold conditions, and it may become trapped under or in ice for a long time. Furthermore, oil spill response is very difficult, even impossible, in many parts of the Arctic.
If we want to manage the oil spill risks proactively, we first need methods to assess them reliably. In the Arctic, oil spill risk assessment is typically hampered by the high uncertainties resulting from the lack of knowledge related to, for instance, the environmental factors, the behavior of oil, the distribution and abundance of species as well as the vulnerability and sensitivity of species to oil.
In CEARCTIC and CEPOLAR projects, we have developed new methods for oil spill risk assessment in the Arctic. We are interested especially in data-poor situations and different uncertainties, and in developing methods with wide applicability, i.e. which can be used to assess risks over large areas such as shipping routes.