The study, released Friday, used computer simulations of 22 scenarios to observe how an oil spill in Canada's Beaufort Sea -- a part of the Arctic Sea north of Canada -- would spread. In every case, researchers noted spilled oil would likely reach Alaska; in the event of an oil rig blowout, oil would have a 25 percent chance of reaching Russia, with subsurface oil contamination highly likely to reach Alaska.
Results of the study come as Canada's National Energy Board prepares to consider safety and emergency elements of proposals from Imperial Oil and Chevron Canada for offshore energy drilling in the Arctic area.
Dan Slavik of the World Wildlife Fund office in Inuvik, a Canadian town near the Arctic Circle, noted spilled oil is harder to contain when it is trapped in sea ice.
"Its fate and trajectory will largely end up where it melts. You could see spills moving from the Canadian Beaufort to the coast of Alaska, and even as far away as Russia."