During 2007, the Arctic lost a record amount of ice and became "Open" when the Northwest Passage became more navigable earlier and later in the season. Another record "Open Arctic" occurred in the summer 2012, and the area of Arctic ice extent appears to be on a decline. Events like this sparked an interest in what effects an Open Arctic would have on specific drilling areas in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea.
The ice extent in the last 10 years has been below the 1981-2010 average. This data can be used to forecast the length of future drilling seasons. A sample drilling location was selected in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea. For each location, predicted dates for the Marginal Ice Zone [MIZ] to retreat and return in 2014 and in 2015 were made. The actual observed dates were recorded. Based on the MIZ retreat and return dates for locations in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea, predictions are given for the length of the drilling seasons for 2016 and 2017. Since 2005, the below average monthly sea ice extent indicates the continued decline of the Arctic ice extent. The impact of an Open Arctic for the drilling season will be discussed. The drilling season will be defined as the date when the MIZ retreats by a radius of 100 nautical miles from the drilling locations.
An Open Arctic scenario could also lead to an increasing number of storms over the drilling locations, and the possibility these storms produce higher waves is considered. The comparison of the daily significant waves from the European Reanalysis Data was reviewed to determine the impact on the drilling locations in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea. The assumption was made that when the waves are near zero, ice is near the locations. The impact of sea ice on waves is critical to Open Arctic operations, and this type of research can help plan for future Arctic drilling locations.