(Christopher Eshleman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via The Associated Press via Anchorage Daily News, 18 July 2009)—FAIRBANKS—A multinational council has recommended the United States and other northern countries adopt mandatory rules for construction of ships that ply the Arctic Ocean, where thinning ice and increasing resource development should accelerate commercial shipping. Shipping through the ice-covered ocean—a basin ringed by major fisheries, bookended by land-based mining projects and host to high-profile oil and gas leasing—has risen, but rules and guidelines for shipbuilders and Arctic countries vary or, where standardized, remain voluntary, the council reported in a major assessment of arctic shipping. The call for harmonized standards and laws, made through an Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment led by the eight-nation Arctic Council, comes as researchers consistently find signs that Arctic ice has thinned drastically and analysts mull the potential ramifications. The group cites scientific indications the Arctic's year-round ice cover could contain melting spots and channels within a few years. But Lawson Brigham, a former icebreaker captain now serving as professor of geography and arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said recently that despite that melting, the ocean remains—and will remain—ice-covered for most of the year, justifying calls for comprehensive standards uniform enough for shipbuilders, shipping companies, national governments and others to follow regardless of home port or location.
Posted 21 July 2009; 3:08:01 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 21 July 2009) -- A late thaw at the North Pole has some people optimistic that Arctic sea ice won't shrink to record lows this summer. So far, observations show less ice north of Alaska, in the Barents Sea and in Baffin Bay. There are also lower concentrations of ice in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. More than 20 groups from around the world are contributing information to the Sea Ice Outlook project. They include European scientists, the national ice services in Canada and the U.S, and Inuit hunters. At the end of June, buoys and web cameras at the North Pole Environmental Observatory showed the ice melt there was very late. There was also a lot of snow and few melt ponds. There's also more second-year ice this year in some areas. Second-year ice has survived a melt season, which normally runs from June until September.
Posted 21 July 2009; 2:55:30 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 21 July 2009) -- MOSCOW - Russia is against any arms race in the Arctic, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. Last week, Denmark announced its plans to establish an Arctic military command and a task force amid conflicting territorial claims by the five Arctic states. Commenting on the development, Andrei Nesterenko told journalists that, "Russia is opposed to the unleashing of an arms race in the Arctic Region and suggests as an alternative the boosting of bilateral cooperation in issues of navigation safety, search and rescue and the prevention of ecological disasters." He added that it was in Russia's national interests to maintain peace and cooperation in the region. The Arctic territories, believed to hold vast untapped oil and gas reserves, have increasingly been at the center of disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice. In March, the Russian Security Council outlined Russia's strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units "to guarantee Russia's military security in diverse military and political circumstances."
Posted 21 July 2009; 10:45:17 AM. Permalink