Modeling oil spills in the Beaufort Sea

  • 25/07/2014
  • WWF

The Beaufort Sea is a unique ocean environment that covers approximately 476,000 kmĀ² (184,000 sq. mi), spanning the Canadian-U.S. border and stretching across the northern coasts of Alaska, Yukon and the western Northwest Territories. This remote sea has always been dominated by sea ice. However, as the Arctic warms due to climate change, there is less summer ice than ever before in the Beaufort Sea, which could lead to increased shipping traffic. At the same time, there is renewed interest in offshore exploratory oil and gas drilling and development. These developments in the Beaufort Sea could increase the likelihood of a minor, major or catastrophic oil spill, to this sensitive Arctic ecosystem. What would an oil spill look like in the Beaufort Sea? How would the oil interact with the ice and the unique environmental conditions of the area?