(Mike Williams/BBC News, 5 February 2009)-- Kiruna, Sweden - Inside the Arctic circle, in the far north of Sweden, there is a city on a hill. Kiruna is a glittering place—even your breath sparkles, turning crystalline as you exhale. Looming over the city are the mountainous slag-heaps of the LKAB mine and, in the early hours of every day, Kiruna shudders and trembles as nearly 100 tons of high explosives detonate more than 1km underground, liberating thousands of tons of iron ore from the heart of the mountain. You can feel the blast more than you hear it—feel it in your chest and through the soles of your feet. The seam of magnetite runs from the top of Kiruna mountain, deep into the rock below, sloping underground towards the city. But the hollowed out earth is shifting now, cracking under Kiruna as the mountain slips sideways. So, they have decided to move the city, 4km (2.5 miles) down the road. Some buildings will be torn down and replacements built. Others will be dismantled, stone by stone, and reassembled in a new landscape. And some, like the magnificent wooden church, once voted Sweden's most beautiful building, will be lifted whole, and transported slowly down roads as yet unbuilt. Ann Helen Karlstroem lives close to the mine and her home will be among the first to go. ... "I am going to be a little sad because I thought our grandchildren could see where their parents were growing up," she says. Her husband, Erling, just wants to make sure their new home in this city in the wilderness is as big as the old one. He, like most people in Kiruna, are resigned to the move. Without the mine, the city would struggle to survive. But there is resistance from some of those who lived here first—the indigenous Sami people. For more than 2,000 years they have herded reindeer and they say the transformation of Kiruna will cut deep into their grazing lands and the migration paths of their animals. Hans-Goran Partopuoli learned to herd reindeer the hard way - walking and skiing long distances through a frozen landscape, to follow his animals. ... Hans-Goran explains why he is so worried about the plans to move the city. "It will make the grazing lands smaller for us," he says. "And they are building a new railway across the path where we go with the reindeer… so that's why we are very worried about this." To move Kiruna will take decades, but plans for the new railway are well-advanced and the electricity grid to power the new city is already in place.
Posted 6 February 2009; 3:11:37 PM. Permalink
(National Geographic News, 5 February 2009) -- The black wolves that haunt scary stories would have been mere fiction were it not for domestic dogs. A recent study surprised scientists by revealing that the gene for darker coats in gray wolves, at least in North America, originated in our best furry friends. Although it's well known that dogs descended from wolves, the new finding implies that some genetic material moved backward in the evolutionary chain. ... This isn't to say that darker wolves resemble dogs, said study co-author Greg Barsh, a geneticist at Stanford University in California. "It's quite clear that black wolves are just as much wolf as a non-black wolf," Barsh said. But this small amount of dog genes may have given black-coated wolves a selective advantage. Among the gray wolves in North America, the number of dark wolves in a given population can range from 10 to 70 percent. Worldwide, the only other wolves known to have darker coats are in Italy. Scientists know there are particular gene receptors that cause dark colors in animals as diverse as birds, fish, and rabbits. But when Barsh and colleagues looked at variations of those genes in wolves and coyotes, the researchers found that those variations didn't affect the color of the canines' fur. Instead, a more unique gene that darkens fur in dogs was found in dark wolves and coyotes from Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park and the Canadian Arctic.
Posted 6 February 2009; 11:06:34 AM. Permalink
(AP via Taiwan Times, 4 February 2009) -- Rescuers say a small helicopter crashed in the Norwegian Arctic and one person on board was killed. Norway's Rescue Coordination Center says a second person suffered minor injuries when the Eurocopter AS350 went down in heavy snow showers near the Swedish border. Recuse leader Anne Holm Gundersen says it is unclear why the aircraft crashed Wednesday during a flight from its base in the northern town of Harstad to Alta. Only two people were on board the five-passenger craft owned by Harstad company HeliTeam. The company said both were Norwegian but did not identify them by name.
Posted 6 February 2009; 10:40:01 AM. Permalink
(Bronwen Maddox/Times Online, 6 February 2009) -- The melting of the Arctic may not be on the mind of anyone in Britain today, with snow and ice still gripping the country. But this year will bring an acceleration of the race for the "High North"—the scramble for territorial rights over the Arctic, which has been dubbed the new Cold War. At a Nato conference, the Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, warned that members might need a military presence in the Arctic because of growing tensions. Russia, with a third of its territory north of the Arctic Circle, has been noisiest in its claims. Its Defence Ministry has prepared a national directive, laying claim to large parts of the region. In September Anatoli Serdyukov, the Defence Minister, flew to Nagurskoye military station, a northern outpost, to prepare this strategy document. Britain, Canada, the US, China, Norway, Denmark and the EU all are preparing different claims. Canada doubled its funding for mapping the seabed last year and said that it would open an army training post at Resolute Bay, and a deep-water port. In the final weeks of his presidency, George W.Bush issued the US's strategy for the region. Why now? Two summers in which the Arctic ice has melted much further than expected have suggested that the Northwest Passage, a hugely valuable sea route, might open up through the once-frozen sea. Some scientists think that the Arctic waters could be ice-free in summer within four years, decades earlier than previously suggested. The retreat of the ice cap also offers the chance of extracting the huge oil and gas reserves believed to lie in fields around the North Pole.Russia is laying the ground for the contest with military showiness, comic to those at some distance but menacing to immediate neighbours.
Posted 6 February 2009; 7:41:31 AM. Permalink
(Politiken.dk, ) -- Canadian and American researchers are suggesting the creation of the world’s first Arctic Ice Park to stretch across the northern borders of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Norway and Russia. According to Sermitsiaq, the idea of creating the park is to put the area on the United Nations World Heritage List. “The idea is still at an early stage, but the Inuit in the Arctic will play a central role in developing a strategy to protect the polar ice,” McGill University Ice Researcher Bruno Templay told knr.gl. The idea was first put forward at an American conference, and is designed to protect melting arctic glaciers from disturbances such as oil prospecting and shipping.
Posted 6 February 2009; 12:29:11 AM. Permalink
(Juliet Eilperin/Washington Post, 6 February 2009) -- Federal fisheries managers have voted to bar all commercial fishing in U.S. waters from north of the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border in light of the rapid climate changes that are transforming the Arctic. In a unanimous vote yesterday, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council ruled that scientists and policymakers need to better assess how global warming is affecting the region before allowing fishing on stocks such as Arctic cod, saffron cod and snow crab. "There's concern over unregulated fishing, there's concern about warming, there's concern about how commercial fishing might affect resources in the region, local residents and subsistence fishing and the ecosystem as a whole," said Bill Wilson, a council aide. Environmentalists and fishing interests praised the move as sensible, given the changes to ice cover and other features of the Arctic environment. The Marine Conservation Alliance—an association representing fishermen and processors who harvest groundfish and crab off Alaska's coast—endorsed the council's decision to close an area spanning nearly 200,000 square miles, an area nearly twice as large as the U.S. national park system. "We really feel strongly the science needs to catch up with the rate of change in the Arctic," David Benton, the association's executive director, said in an interview.
Posted 6 February 2009; 12:12:09 AM. Permalink