Russia is already preparing for the opening of this sea route with a big boost in Arctic military bases, according to Foreign Policy.
In recent years, Russia unveiled a new Arctic command, four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports, and 40 icebreakers with an additional 11 in development.
In contrast, the United States has one working icebreaker for the Arctic - it's only other one is broken.
Khon and his colleagues used global climate models and existing satellite data to make their predictions of conditions along the northern Russian coastline.
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At the same time, as Khon's paper points out, the breakup of sea ice could cause other trouble for ships: stronger winds and bigger waves.
"Ice conditions are important," said Marika Holland, a sea ice and climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "There are other risks, such as wave conditions and how storms might change in a warming arctic. All of things will also affect shipping."
Holland said while the general trend is for a more ice-free Arctic zone, there's still uncertainty about which areas will be most affected and the kind of weather conditions mariners should be expected in the future.
"One big question is how storminess is going to change in the Arctic," Holland said. "There's a lot of work being done on that and it is an active research topic. We don't completely know. There are these other aspects on how changes in the climate might be risks to shipping, so you have to look at the whole picture."
The melting ocean route could destroy coastlines as well, according to Tarmo Soomere, professor of coastal engineering at the Tallinn Institute of Technology in Estonia.
"A large part of Russian Arctic coasts are not rocky or sandy, and consist of just frozen mud," Soomere said. "When there is no protecting ice cover, these coastal sections will simply melt. While, Baltic Sea ice cover protects the coasts from the direct impact of waves, in such 'frozen mud' coasts the ice serves as an insulator. As a result, these coasts may easily retreat by some 100 meters in relatively warm summers. There seems to be no way to stop this process."
Top photo: The Arktika, shown here during its 2016 launch in St Petersburg, is the first of a new class of ships being built by Russia to forge a path through the Northern Sea Route. Credit: YouTube screen grab.
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