Of all EU members, Sweden is the country with the longest coastline. Our coasts and archipelagos are not only a unique asset for recreation and fishing, but also an important resource for the transport of goods. About 85 percent of Sweden's exports and imports are transported via commercial shipping.
Large parts of Sweden's waters freeze every year which affects shipping. Every winter approximately 500 – 2000 ships require icebreaker assistance to get in and out from Swedish ports.
During severe winters sea ice may also affect other infrastructure such as bridges, passenger ships and coastal communities. The ice condition can hamper crisis management, such as search and rescue and oil spill response.
Shorter winters with ice at sea
To analyse sea ice propagation in the future, researchers use different climate model scenarios. These show certain common patterns but also differences. The most evident changes over the next 100 years are that the length of the ice season will be reduced, and its geographical extent will decrease.
In all scenarios, the changes are greatest in the south, while the Bothnian Bay and northern Bothnian Sea are least affected. None of the scenarios indicate that sea ice will disappear completely from the Baltic region during the present century, and it is important to remember that the variations from year to year will continue to be large. This means that severe winter conditions can occur in the future although they might be less frequent.
Ice on lakes
Studies show that even ice winters on lakes are expected to be shorter in the future. The changes are expected to occur during autumn with later ice formation, and during spring with earlier ice break-up.