(Eric Christopher Adams/Alaska Dispatch, 7 April 2012) -- An epic winter in Anchorage, became an historic one Saturday afternoon. With several inches of new snowfall, according to the National Weather Service, the city officially broke the all-time record of 132.6 inches of snow. That record snowfall came in the winter of 1954-55, before Alaska was even a state. As of 4 p.m., 133.6 inches of snow had fallen on Anchorage during the winter of 2011-12. Snow continued to fall into the evening. And while some celebrated, others lamented the unending snow. Some places in the South Anchorage Hillside neighborhood, which has a significantly higher elevation than the city proper, have recorded upwards of 200 inches of snow this winter. All that snow has caused thousands of dollars in home and commercial property damage. It became fodder for the city's mayoral election. It prompted fights and lawsuits between neighbors over snowberms. It left city "snow dumps" bulging beyond capacity while running up millions of dollars of street-clearing and other fees for city government. ... A meteorologist with Accuweather, a company providing weather data for news and TV stations across the country, recently warned that those sorts of temperatures would likely be the norm for Alaska this spring. April and May look to be chilly, wet months for Anchorage and much of Alaska, said Jack Boston of Accuweather. A weather phenomenon known as Arctic Oscillation has, in layman's terms, left a stubborn "dome" of cold air stuck over the 49th state that's blocking warm air from the Pacific Ocean from moving through. In other words, Anchorage might not just break the all-time snow record. With potential for another three or four weeks of damp weather hovering near freezing temperatures, this winter could be a once-in-a-lifetime snow season.
Posted 9 April 2012; 10:11:46 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 8 April 2012) -- The Canadian military’s Operation Nunalivut starts in Resolute, Nunavut, on Tuesday. About 150 people, including Canadian Rangers and military personnel, will participate in the exercise. The challenging High Arctic environment and the potentially severe weather will set the stage for two missions. "One is in the vicinity of Banshee Island, enabling search and rescue training combined with a dive operation," said Brig.-Gen. Guy Hamel, the Canadian Forces' commander in the North. "There will be also be a northern ground patrol scenario that we allow the Canadian Rangers to both exercise sovereignty and practice aerial search techniques." Operation Nunalivut will run until May 1. This will mark the Canadian Forces' first official return to Resolute since a First Air passenger jet crashed near the community on Aug. 20. That crash, which claimed the lives of 12 of the 15 people on board, happened while the military was taking part in Operation Nanook in the area. Operation Nunalivut is one of three major military exercises that take place in Canada's North every year.
Posted 9 April 2012; 9:59:44 PM. Permalink
(Peter Apps/Reuters via Vancouver Sun, 6 April 2012) -- This year's frenzy of oil and gas exploration in newly accessible Arctic waters could be the harbinger of even starker changes to come. If, as many scientists predict, currently inaccessible sea lanes across the top of the world become navigable in the coming decades, they could redraw global trading routes -- and perhaps geopolitics -- forever. This summer will see more human activity in the Arctic than ever before, with oil giant Shell engaged in major exploration and an expected further rise in fishing, tourism and regional shipping. But that, experts warn, brings with it a rising risk of environmental disaster not to mention criminal activity from illegal fishing to smuggling and terrorism. ... With indigenous populations, researchers and military forces reporting the ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap might disappear completely during the summer season as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier. That could slash the journey time from Europe to Chinese and Japanese ports by well over a week, possibly taking traffic from the southern Suez Canal route. But with many of those key sea routes passing through already disputed waters believed to contain much of the world's untapped energy reserves, some already fear a rising risk of confrontation. There are fledging signs of growing cooperation -- the first ever meeting of Arctic defense chiefs in Canada later this month, joint tabletop exercises on polar search and rescue operations organized through the Arctic Council. But growing unease is also clear.
Posted 9 April 2012; 8:45:07 PM. Permalink