(Felicity Barringer/New York Times, 6 March 2013) -- At a time when large dams are being taken down, not put up, the state of Alaska is proposing to construct one of the tallest and most expensive hydroelectric dams ever built in North America. The Alaska Energy Authority is planning to build a 735-foot, $5.2 billion structure on the Susitna River in a largely empty south-central part of the state, which is watered by runoff from the arc of the Alaska Range. The dam, designed to generate up to 600 megawatts of electricity, would create a new power supply for more than two-thirds of the state’s population. But in Alaska, where natural energy resources and wildlife are both foundations of the economy, the proposed dam presents twin conundrums. One is economic: which is better, creating a reliable source of hydroelectricity and weaning some of the state off natural gas, or building a spur off a proposed pipeline to bring gas from the North Slope to the populated region from Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula? Or both? The other is environmental: what serves the environment best, replacing natural gas-fired electricity with hydroelectricity, which is free of greenhouse gas emissions, or keeping the Susitna watershed untrammeled and avoiding the risks involved in changing the dynamics of a major salmon stream? ...
Posted 10 March 2013; 8:56:17 PM. Permalink
(Kelsey Gobroski/KTOO Juneau, 20 February 2013) -- Attu Island is overdue for some spring cleaning. Seventy years after World War II, the island is still littered with shards of old Coke bottles, lead-based batteries, leaking fuel drums and unexploded artillery. This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the remote island as a refuge, will survey the extent of World War II debris and contamination. As KTOO news intern Kelsey Gobroski reports, the entire ecosystem could be affected by the decades of pollution. Listen to the full story
(Ida Korneliussen/ScienceNordic, 20 February 2013) -- When Stone Age hunters missed their targets they inadvertently turned snow patches into treasure chests. ... The bow is nocked and released. The arrow zings through the air. But this was an especially unfortunate shot. Not only did it miss the prey, the arrow drove deep into a snow patch. For some reason it wasn’t retrieved. But it didn’t disappear for good. “We archaeologists are reliant on hunters missing like that,” says Martin Callanan, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where he teaches in the Department of Archaeology and Religious Studies. “When arrows disappeared deep into snow they sometimes froze there for keeps, until we find them,” he says. One of his favourite artefacts is the arrow that disappointed a hunter 5,400 years ago. Callanan and other NTNU researchers are working with an international project called Snow Patch Archaeology Research Cooperation (SPARC), which has as one of its goals the finding and analysing of hunting weapons in perennial mountain snow patches around the country.
Posted 21 February 2013; 12:23:24 AM. Permalink
(Laurence Peter/BBC News, 25 January 2013) -- The toxic legacy of the Cold War lives on in Russia's Arctic, where the Soviet military dumped many tonnes of radioactive hardware at sea. For more than a decade, Western governments have been helping Russia to remove nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines docked in the Kola Peninsula - the region closest to Scandinavia. But further east lies an intact nuclear submarine at the bottom of the Kara Sea, and its highly enriched uranium fuel is a potential time bomb. This year the Russian authorities want to see if the K-27 sub can be safely raised, so that the uranium - sealed inside the reactors - can be removed. They also plan to survey numerous other nuclear dumps in the Kara Sea, where Russia's energy giant Rosneft and its US partner Exxon Mobil are now exploring for oil and gas. Seismic tests have been done and drilling of exploratory wells is likely to begin next year, so Russia does not want any radiation hazard to overshadow that. ... On the western flank is a closed military zone - the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. It was where the USSR tested hydrogen bombs - above ground in the early days. Besides K-27, official figures show that the Soviet military dumped a huge quantity of nuclear waste in the Kara Sea: 17,000 containers and 19 vessels with radioactive waste, as well as 14 nuclear reactors, five of which contain hazardous spent fuel. Low-level liquid waste was simply poured into the sea. Norwegian experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are satisfied that there is no evidence of a radiation leak - the Kara Sea's radioisotope levels are normal. But Ingar Amundsen, an official at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), says more checks are needed. The risk of a leak through seawater corrosion hangs over the future - and that would be especially dangerous in the case of K-27, he told BBC News.
Posted 20 February 2013; 11:24:25 PM. Permalink
(The Economist, 9 February 2013) -- ON SEPTEMBER 16th 2012, at the height of the summer melt, the Arctic Ocean’s ice sheet had shrunk to an area of 3.41m square kilometres (1.32m square miles), half what it was in 1979. And its volume had shrunk faster still, .... The world’s average temperature in 2012 was nearly 0.5°C above the average for 1951-80. In the Arctic, it was up almost 2°C. This sudden warming is like the peeling back of a lid to reveal a new ocean underneath. That prospect is spreading alarm (among greens) and excitement (at the natural resources and other economic opportunities that could be unveiled). Though most of the excitement has been about oil and gas, and the opening of sea routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific, some people hope for a fishing bonanza .... But they may be disappointed. At the moment, the waters around the Arctic account for a fifth of the world’s catch. There are few fish, however, under the ice itself. A fishing bonanza would require big ecological change. Arctic Frontiers, a conference organised at the University of Tromso in January, looked at how warming will change the ecology, to estimate whether it will bring one about. The consensus was that it won’t—not because the Arctic will change too little, but because it will change too much. ... The most important reason, though, for thinking that global warming will not produce an Arctic feeding frenzy is that it may increase ocean stratification. This is the tendency of seawater to separate into layers, because fresh water is lighter than salt and cold water heavier than warm. The more stratified water is, the less nutrients in it move around. ... A warming Arctic will not, in other words, be full of fish. It will simply be an ice-free version of the desert it already is.
Posted 11 February 2013; 4:44:10 PM. Permalink
(Reuters, 17 January 2013) -- Coca-Cola will give 3 million euros ($4 million) to conservation group WWF over the next three years to help kickstart a campaign to protect the Arctic from the impacts of global warming, the world's biggest soft-drinks maker said. The Europe-wide campaign, which launched on Thursday in London, is aimed at raising awareness and funding to help protect the natural habitat of the polar bear, which is under threat from climate change. ... The campaign aims to raise awareness and funds in European countries for the plight of the polar bear. The money raised will go towards protecting an area in the Arctic where summer sea ice should last the longest, WWF and Coca-Cola said.
Posted 18 January 2013; 7:50:54 PM. Permalink
(BBC News, 7 January 2013) -- An influx of wolves preying on reindeer herds has triggered a state of emergency in the Sakha Republic, in north-eastern Russia. Squads of hunters will pursue the wolves in a three-month "battle" from 15 January, officials say. The most successful hunters will get bonuses. The vast, sparsely populated region is also known as Yakutia. Experts quoted by Russian media believe a shortage of mountain hares has caused the migration of hungry wolves. Wolf packs have moved into Sakha's central reindeer pastures, from their normal hunting grounds in the mountains and dense forests. Reports speak of increased attacks on livestock, but not on humans. The wolf-hunting season has been extended to the whole year, as the target is to get the wolf population in the region down to 500 - reckoned to be the optimal number. Currently there are estimated to be more than 3,500. There will be a "six-figure sum" for hunters who bring in the most wolf pelts - a big incentive, as 100,000 roubles (£2,043; $3,280) goes a long way in a region that is famously cold, remote and under-developed. The emergency measures were announced by Sakha President Yegor Borisov, who heard numerous complaints about wolf attacks when he visited several villages, a statement on his website said.
Posted 7 January 2013; 11:56:28 AM. Permalink
(Ayesha Rascoe/Reuters via Scientific American, 3 January 2013) -- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Opponents of Royal Dutch Shell's ambitious Arctic oil program have called on the Obama administration to put offshore drilling plans in the region on hold after one of the company's oil rigs broke away from tow boats in high seas and ran aground off Alaska. The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society on Thursday said the accident involving Shell's Kulluk oil rig is new evidence that oil companies are not prepared to safely manage the extreme conditions of the Arctic. The 30-year-old Kulluk rig ran aground on New Year's Eve in what were described as "near hurricane" conditions while it was being towed south for the winter. "This string of mishaps by Shell makes it crystal clear that we are not ready to drill in the Arctic," Chuck Clusen, NRDC's director of Alaska projects, told reporters in a teleconference. The green groups said they plan to send a letter to the Department of the Interior demanding that it stop issuing permits in the Arctic and that it prevent drilling in the sensitive area until it is determined that the environment can be fully protected. Ocean conservation group Oceana also called on the department to stop oil drilling activities in the Arctic after the Kulluk's grounding. Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 to develop the Arctic's vast oil reserves, but the company has faced intense opposition from environmentalists and native groups as well as regulatory and technical hurdles.
Posted 4 January 2013; 5:07:41 PM. Permalink
(Tim Lister/CNN, 7 December 2012) -- In mid-July this year, a roar echoed around one of the most remote inlets of northern Greenland -- and an island was born. No ordinary island, but a huge chunk of ice, roughly twice the size of Manhattan, that had broken from the Petermann Glacier. Scientists gave it the romantic name of PII-2012 and watched it begin to drift slowly into the Nares Strait, which separates Greenland from Canada. Then it began to break up, spawning several smaller ice islands. The birth of PII-2012 was no isolated event. The Petermann Glacier had lost a much larger chunk in 2010. It also broke into fragments, though that may not be the right word. One of them alone was estimated to weigh 3.5 billion tonnes, or metric tons (3.86 billion short tons), according to E. Julie Halliday, a researcher at Memorial University in Canada. ... Halliday noted in a paper presented at the Arctic Technology Conference in Houston last week that while "management of a 3.5 billion-tonne ice island away from offshore structures may theoretically be possible, putting it into practice would be logistically very challenging." ... Scientists are only now beginning to research these ice islands and the rate at which they melt and divide, especially as the Arctic waters warm and the restraining effect of sea ice disappears. ... The same warmer temperatures that are encouraging the collapse of ice shelves are melting icebergs and ice islands before they reach the north Atlantic, according to the International Ice Patrol, a program led by the U.S. Coast Guard to protect shipping from the sort of disaster that befell the Titanic. ... The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its annual Arctic Report Card, published this week, said dramatic melting of the Greenland ice sheet had occurred in July, "covering about 97 percent of the ice sheet on a single day." ... All the evidence says that what in effect is the world's source of air conditioning is getting weaker, with consequences that will be felt far below the 48th parallel.
Posted 10 December 2012; 11:07:58 AM. Permalink
(CBC News, 10 December 2012) -- A climatologist in the United States says the Arctic Circle should be a no-fly zone for major commercial flights. In a new report, Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University in California, says black soot from commercial jets is attracting heat from the sun. Airlines first started flying over the Arctic in 1998, when Russia agreed to allow other countries to fly planes in its airspace. Now, more than 50,000 planes fly through the Arctic Circle every year. Jacobson says that could be a major cause of Arctic melting. “One of the effects of the aircraft is they emit a lot of soot into the upper atmosphere and the sunlight is absorbed by that soot, and the air heats up, so you get this kind of elevated, heated air layer where the aircraft fly,” Jacobson said. However, if large planes flew outside of the Arctic Circle, they would burn more fuel. However, Jacobson argues the warming effect would not be as great. The professor says he doesn't expect airlines to start rerouting flights around the Arctic Circle any time soon: he said airlines save more than $100 million a year in fuel costs by using the Arctic Circle as a shortcut.
Posted 10 December 2012; 11:02:14 AM. Permalink
(CBC News, 5 November 2012) -- The spring snow pack in the Arctic is disappearing at a much faster rate than anticipated even by climate change models, says a new study by Environment Canada researchers. That has implications for wildlife, vegetation and ground temperatures, say the scientists, who looked at four decades of snow data for the Canadian Arctic and beyond. Combined with recent news that the Arctic sea ice retreated to an all-time low this summer, it suggests climate change may be happening much faster than expected, said Dr. Chris Derksen, a research scientist for Environment Canada and one of the study's authors. "What we discovered was that there is a significant reduction in the amount of snow cover, particularly in May and June… and the rate of that decline is actually slightly faster than the loss of summer sea ice," Derksen said in an interview. They studied 40 years of data from across the Arctic from April to June, and found the decline in spring snow cover was actually slightly faster than the decline in sea ice that made headlines around the world.
Posted 5 November 2012; 2:35:43 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 11 October 2012) -- The wreck of the Soviet cruiser Murmansk will be completely gone by November. 14,000 tons of scrap metal have been removed in the unique operation on the coast of Finnmark. AF Decom, the company that won the NOK 328 million (€44.5 million) tender to remove the wreck, reports that the removal is going very smoothly after managing to resolve earlier problems with leakages in the jetties that have been built around the wreck. “There are still some parts left in the ground, but everything will be removed by the middle of November, before the winter storms set in,” AF Decom Director Eirik Wraal says to NRK. The sea bottom around the wreck has been drained using jetties and the vessel has been cut into pieces and removed. The whole operation is being filmed for a future documentary and you can watch the removal operation on-line here. The 211-meters-long cruiser ended its days in Sørøya in the rocks outside Sørvær on the coast of Finnmark in December 1994. The cruiser was being tugged southwards for scrapping when it tore away during a storm and has since been to a lot of nuisance to the local population. A decision to remove the wreck was made in August 2008, after debris from the cruiser delivered for recycling revealed that there were traces of a radioactive source, PCB and brominated flame retardants in the vessel.
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:31:12 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 8 October 2012) -- Arctic Sweden's northernmost city is moving east. The mining that has been the lifeblood of Kiruna town for over a hundred years has also undermined its buildings some are already sinking into the ground. Architects, from Sweden and abroad, have been competing to be the ones to create New Kiruna. To get the latest on the plans we talked to Katerina Nilsson, secretary of the jury deciding which plan to go with. [radio]
Posted 14 October 2012; 3:55:11 PM. Permalink
(Asle Rønning/ScienceNordic, 6 October 2012) -- Norway’s Arctic Archipelago Svalbard gets some unseasonal rains now and then in winter. When it rains enough to soak through the snow and freeze against the topsoil, grass and other vegetation becomes hard for herbivores to reach. Two very different species are significantly affected by these rainfalls in the winter: the Svalbard reindeer and the sibling vole, which is Svalbard’s only rodent and only other mammalian land herbivore. The common factor impacting both stocks is winter rain, or the lack of it, according to a new study published in Biology Letters by scientists in Norway and Scotland. As the planet heats up, so far most in the polar regions, the Arctic is expected to get more rain in the season when powder snow would be expected. The study indicates that climate changes can have massive consequences on the entire Arctic ecosystem. This year with much more rain than average, calves of the Svalbard reindeer have a significantly smaller chance of survival and stocks of the sibling vole (Microtus kuis) are expected to plunge. On the Norwegian mainland in Finnmark County, well north of the Polar Circle, wet winter precipitation that freezes and locks vegetation under a sheet of ice is also known to aggravate reindeer browsing. “The Sami who maintain reindeer herds are familiar with this problem. What’s special about Svalbard is that this greatly impacts the voles. So it’s affecting large and small alike,” says one of the researchers behind the study, Audun Stien at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). Stien says that last winter, which wasn’t included in the study, was yet another with lots of winter rain. “Permafrost is what’s special about Svalbard. When the rain soaks down through the snow it freezes against frozen soil,” he says. Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) is a subspecies of reindeer found only on Svalbard.
Posted 12 October 2012; 4:13:30 PM. Permalink
(Marine Science Today, 22 September 2012) -- A committee of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK is calling for a complete stop of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic until certain safety issues have been taken care of. The Environmental Audit Committee has previously voiced their concerns that a spill could cause catastrophic environmental damage. The MPs say that current oil spill cleanup methods are not adequate. They are calling for a pan-Arctic spill response standard, full liability for firms and an environmental sanctuary in the Arctic. Both BP and Shell are involved in Arctic drilling projects. BP’s plans are temporarily on hold and they wouldn’t provide the MPs with evidence that they have an adequate plan for spill response. Shell has stopped drilling for the winter, but they claim that their spill response is adequate. “There appears to be a lack of strategic thinking and policy coherence within Government on this issue, illustrated by its failure to demonstrate how future oil and gas extraction from the Arctic can be reconciled to commitments to limit temperature rises to 2°C,” the MPs said. ”The Government should seek to resolve this matter.” You can read more from the BBC here: MPs call to halt Arctic drilling amid safety concerns.
Posted 22 September 2012; 10:42:47 AM. Permalink
(YLE News via Eye on the Arctic, 16 May 2012) -- The midnight sun is bringing nightless night to the municipality of Utsjoki in Finland's Far North starting Wednesday. The sun will not set again in Utsjoki until mid-July. White nights only occur above the Arctic Circle and are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis toward the sun.
Posted 18 May 2012; 11:47:59 AM. Permalink
(David McKie/CBC News via Eye on the Arctic, 8 May 2012) -- The federal government identified 142 contaminated sites as of last September where pollutants need to be contained or eliminated because of a long-term or immediate threat to human health or the environment. That's according to a CBC News analysis of the most recently available data compiled by the Treasury Board, one of the departments responsible for maintaining an inventory of sites. Much of the data is available online, but CBC News obtained more complete data under an access-to-information request. The 142 sites are only those that have reached step eight in a long process that federal departments and agencies must follow to assess and develop plans to clean up or contain damage posed by contaminants. Step eight is what's called "remediation/risk management strategy," which includes identifying the contaminants and whether they are present in soil or groundwater, and developing a plan to remove or treat the contaminants, as well as a detailed contingency plan in case the contaminants are released into the environment.
Posted 9 May 2012; 3:18:13 PM. Permalink
(Russia and India Report, 6 April 2012, running time 26:10) -- The tiny village of Shoina in Russia’s Arctic faces a daily battle against advancing sands, which appeared over 50 years ago and have been covering the land ever since.
Posted 9 May 2012; 2:08:19 PM. Permalink
(Laine Welch/Capital City Weekly, 9 May 2012) -- Soccer balls, motorcycles, reminders of the massive tsunami in Japan a year ago are now appearing along Alaska's coastlines. "It's safe to say that tsunami debris is here," said Merrick Burden, director of the Juneau-based Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation. Since January the MCA has been tracking where and what kinds of debris that is coming ashore, and whether it is radioactive (none so far), at Kodiak, Yakutat, Sitka and Craig where the wreckage was first likely to hit. "What we're finding are wind-driven objects like buoys, Styrofoam, and large containers, some of which contain materials that are potentially toxic," Burden said. "We're finding drums full of things that we don't know what they are yet. So we're looking at a potential large-scale environmental problem, and what we're dealing with now is just the start of it." Debris has been found in every area they've looked, Burden said, and mysterious sludge is washing up on some beaches, apparently from opened containers. Just days ago, an enormous amount of floating debris was spotted off the southern reaches of Prince William Sound, making national headlines. But the worst is yet to come. "Next year is when we expect the larger debris that is driven by currents rather than wind," he said. "That should be comprised of entirely different types of materials, and it might even follow a different trajectory through the water and end up in different locations. Part of the problem is that we don't know what we're dealing with, and it looks bad. It's obviously tragic, and it looks like it's a pretty major environmental hazard as well."
Posted 9 May 2012; 11:28:47 AM. Permalink
(University of Washington and Ohio State University press releases via redOrbit, 4 May 2012) -- Some of Greenland’s glaciers are moving approximately 30% faster than they were a decade ago, contributing to the rising sea level but not reaching worst-case speed levels that experts once feared, a new study published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science has discovered. According to Reuters reporter Deborah Zabarenko, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) and Ohio State University (OSU) studied satellite data from 2000 to 2011. They focused on more than 200 glaciers and discovered that their acceleration levels were not increasing as rapidly as earlier projections had feared. Previously, scientists analyzing the issue had presented a scenario in which the Greenland glaciers would double their velocity between 2000 and 2010, then stabilizing in terms of speed, as well as a second scenario in which their speeds would increase tenfold before stabilizing. Under the first scenario, the sea level would rise by approximately four inches by 2100, and under the second, it would increase by nearly 19 inches by that time, the University of Washington said in a May 3 press release. However, as they point out, those researchers “had little precise data available for how major ice regions, primarily in Greenland and Antarctica, were behaving in the face of climate change.” For the new study, lead author Twila Moon, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences, and co-authors Benjamin Smith of the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at OSU, recorded annual, wintertime changes in the outlet glaciers by using data from the Canadian Space Agency‘s Radarsat-1 satellite, Germany’s TerraSar-X satellite and Japan’s Advanced Land Observation Satellite, and discovered lower-than-anticipated increased in velocity. “’Glacial pace’ is not slow anymore,” Moon told the Associated Press (AP). That said, she added that, “some of the worst-case possibilities that we had imagined are not coming true at this point. So it’s not good news, but it’s not bad news.” Source:
Posted 4 May 2012; 12:28:14 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters, 23 April 2012) -- A soccer ball that bobbed onto the shore of a remote Alaska island is likely the first salvageable debris from last year's Japanese tsunami that could be returned to its owner, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ball, found on Alaska's Middleton Island, bears writing that identifies its place of origin, said Doug Helton, operations coordinator for NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, which is tracking debris from the tsunami. According to a translation provided by Tokyo-based journalists, the ball is from the Osabe School in the Iwate Prefecture, an area that was hit by the devastating tidal wave unleashed March 11 by the magnitude 9 earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast, Helton said Sunday. Beachcombers and cleanup workers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have found debris, including sports equipment, that was likely set adrift by the tsunami, Helton said. But this soccer ball stood out because it had identifying information. The ball was found by David Baxter, a technician at a radar station on Middleton Island, a remote site in the Gulf of Alaska.
Posted 24 April 2012; 11:12:53 AM. Permalink
(Lisa Demer/Anchorage Daily News, 16 April 2012) -- Her father was a Point Hope whaling captain. Her mother taught her how to butcher the bowhead and care for the meat. The family depended on the sea and land for so much. Caroline Cannon's lifelong connection to the Arctic Ocean pushed her to become one of the state's most vocal opponents of offshore oil drilling. Now, just as Shell Oil is poised to drill exploration wells off Alaska's northern coast, her advocacy has won her a coveted environmental award. Cannon, an Inupiat mother of nine and grandmother of 26, is one of this year's winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, described as the world's biggest for grassroots environmentalists. Cannon and the other five winners from around the world were officially announced Monday. Each will receive $150,000. Cannon is the former president of the Native Village of Point Hope, the tribal council that has been involved in a number of lawsuits aimed at stopping oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic. She lost her spot on the village council in a close election last year but expects to get back on soon. Point Hope, a village of about 700 people, is 330 miles southwest of Barrow on a gravel spit that forms the western-most extension of the northwest Alaska coast. The village is one of the oldest continuously occupied Inupiat areas in Alaska, according to the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs. Cannon has spoken up against offshore drilling countless times. At a national tribal summit with President Barack Obama in 2009, she told him "we are not prepared for this." She has sat down with environmental leaders and with Shell. She's traded barbs with Pete Slaiby, Shell's vice president for Alaska operations, and didn't quiet down after he corrected some of her assertions in a letter to the editor. "When you have something you feel strongly about, there's no turning that light off," Cannon said in an interview. "Meaning it's stronger than me."
Posted 16 April 2012; 10:11:57 AM. Permalink
(Iceland Review Online, 11 April 2012) -- Two years ago, the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull caused havoc across Europe, with airborne ash grounding flights for six days. Eyjafjallajökull may be quiet now, but, according to The Telegraph, activity has been increasing in the volcano belt that stretches diagonally across the middle of Iceland from the Westman Islands in the south to the Lake Mývatn area in the north, along the line of the American and Eurasian geological tectonic plates. This region includes the volcano Katla, which has erupted about every 60 years (the last time in 1918), the volcano Hekla, which has erupted approximately once every ten years in the past decade (the last time in 2000), and Grímsvötn, which had a short eruption last year. In the 17th and 19th centuries, eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull were followed within months by eruptions of Katla, and now too, Katla has been increasingly restless. Increased activity has also been detected in the volcanoes under the largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, which is where Grímsvötn lies. ... The University of Iceland is working with Delft University of Technology and other institutions to develop more accurate systems to track and predict volcanic activity, in order to deal with the threat and damage of eruption.
Posted 12 April 2012; 10:04:26 PM. Permalink
(ScienceNordic, 7 April 2012) -- The halibut is a popular delicacy among seafood lovers. But perhaps the pretty slices and the fine texture of this fish shouldn’t be taken for granted in the future. During filleting work, Greenlandic fishermen recently noticed that a specimen of Greenland halibut was full of strange cavities and holes that resemble shot wounds. The mysteriously infected fish was sent to the Laboratory of Aquatic Pathobiology at the University of Copenhagen, where researchers examined the holes in detail. They discovered that the Greenland halibut had been infected with a hitherto unknown parasite, which creates circular holes in the fish muscle. “At first glance it was impossible to see why the holes had appeared,” says Professor Kurt Buchmann, of the Laboratory of Aquatic Pathobiology at the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the University of Copenhagen, who headed the study. “But when I took a closer look through a microscope, I could see that the holes actually consisted of cartilage containing millions of tiny parasites of a previously unknown type. According to the professor, the holes emerged as a result of the parasites attacking cartilage elements in the fish’s skeleton. The cartilage reacts to the infection by swelling dramatically and transforming into long, circular cylinders that go straight through the fish’s musculature and make it appear riddled. ... The parasite has not been described before, neither by fish researchers nor parasite researchers. But its shape reveals that it is of the type Myxobulus – a parasite that’s characterised by being very small and rounded. Since Myxobulus hasn’t previously been observed in the halibut, the researchers knew they were dealing with a new species within Myxobulus. “Detailed DNA analyses also revealed that the newly-discovered projectile parasite was not present in the gene bank for parasites. Moreover, it differed greatly from other known types of parasites.” Although the projectile parasite has hitherto been completely unknown, it is not a newcomer. ”It has probably existed for millions of years – it’s just not been discovered by scientists until now.” Although the parasite makes the delicate fish flesh appear a bit less appetising, Buchmann stresses that it poses no threats to humans.
Posted 7 April 2012; 10:57:24 AM. Permalink
(Postmedia News, 1 April 2012) -- New flame retardants meant to replace their toxic predecessors are showing up in the air around the Great Lakes in increasing concentrations and travelling as far north as the Arctic. These new findings raise a red flag that these chemicals need to be more closely examined to see if they accumulate in the environment and animals, according to Hayley Hung, a research scientist at Environment Canada, who found concentrations of tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and tetrabromophthalate (TBPH) in both Canada's High Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau. "It's not just a localized problem," said Hung. "(They) could become a global pollutant." Hung said TBB and TBPH are among the components in Firemaster flame retardants that are used in everyday objects such as car upholstery, computer equipment, carpeting and polyurethane foam. They get into the air when they're applied (usually sprayed) onto products. The two compounds are meant to replace poly brominated diphenylether (PBDE) flame retardants after these were found to be toxic in the mid-2000s. (PBDEs have been detected in, for example, blood samples and breast milk and some studies suggest a connection between PBDE exposure and reduced fertility in women.) Hung's study as well as research by Ronald Hites at Indiana University shows particles from TBB and TBPH in air samples from cities and remote areas.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:40:53 PM. Permalink
(Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release via Eurekalert.org, 29 March 2012) -- It's never been easy to be a polar bear. They may have to go months without eating. Their preferred food, seal, requires enormous luck and patience to catch. Add to that the melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change, and the poisoning of the Arctic by toxic chemicals, and it's easy to see why polar bears worldwide are in trouble. Among all the bad news, however, comes one possible bright spot. In a study of PCBs in polar bear cubs in Svalbard, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have found that blood levels of PCBs and related contaminants in polar bear cubs appear to have dropped by as much as 59 per cent between 1998 and 2008. At the same time, levels of these contaminants in their mothers were as much as 55 per cent lower over the same period. "The levels of PCB compounds in blood samples from females are on the decline," says Jenny Bytingsvik, a biologist at NTNU who is completing her doctoral dissertation on the findings. "For newborn, vulnerable cubs, this is a very positive trend. Reduced levels of PCBs in the mother bears' blood mean that there is also less contamination in their milk. Even though the PCB levels we found are still too high, this shows that international agreements to ban PCBs have had an effect."
Posted 30 March 2012; 2:33:35 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 23 March 2012) -- The establishment of a national park is a first step of a comprehensive plan to protect the Khibiny mountains, a regional official says. According to Aleksey Smirnov, the territories of a so-called nature park will be defined in the course of 2012. Later, the area will be turned into a national park, the representative of the regional Duma Committee on Industrial Development and Environment says. The status as national park will facilitate the efficient protection of the Khibiny eco-system, Smirnov maintains. As previously reported, the Khibiny mountains are part of the federal protection plans of the Ministry of Natural Resources until year 2020. The establishment of the Khibiny natural park is a key component in the regional nature protection plan, which was adopted in December 2011. The park is to be fully established by 2015, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. The Khibiny mountains are under increasing pressure both from expanding industrial activities and tourism. While big industrial companies with great appetite look at the hugely rich metal and mineral reserves of the area, the tourism industry attract increasing number of tourists.
Posted 25 March 2012; 9:06:44 PM. Permalink
(Alexandra Gutierrez/KUCB - Unalaska, APR, 16 March 2012) -- The state legislature is making progress toward establishing an Arctic policy commission. At a hearing of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Reggie Joule explained that even though Alaska is the country’s only Arctic state, it’s often left out of conversations about federal policy concerning the region. He thinks that having a body responsible for developing an Arctic strategy would give the state more credibility with regulators in Washington. “When we went and addressed the State Department, the Department of the Interior, it is amazing what people do not know about our state that should be basic,” said Joule. “And they get to make budget decisions. And I think it’s imperative that the legislature stay involved in this process.” The idea for the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission came out of the Northern Waters Task Force, a state body that had a similar mission but was only meant to exist for two years. If established, the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission would pick up where the task force left off. It would also be expanded to include representatives from industry, academia, conservation groups, and the state’s tribes.
Posted 18 March 2012; 1:16:54 AM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory via Alaska Dispatch, 11 February 2012) -- Alaska's Cleveland volcano keeps grumbling away, with a lava dome continuing to grow, and the alert level remaining at "watch," according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. A status update on Saturday said that the volcano continued to show activity, but that no elevated temperatures or ash emissions were evident from satellite imagery. Cleveland, about 45 miles from the nearest community of Nikolski, was raised to "watch" status on Jan. 31. At that time, the lava dome was observed at a diameter of about 130 feet. "The current lava dome is estimated to be 50 meters across and occupies only a small portion of the approximately 200 meter (650 foot) diameter summit crater," the update from the AVO said. "There have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity during this current lava eruption. The previous lava dome that formed throughout the fall-winter of 2011 was largely removed by the explosive activity on the 25th and 29th of December, 2011." That eruption spewed an ash cloud about 15,000 feet into the air. The mountain has no real-time monitoring, allowing for updates only when satellite imagery is available.
Posted 13 February 2012; 10:46:28 AM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 10 February 2012) -- What's up with this winter? Fresh off the heels of record cold and snow, an Arctic heat wave is melting Alaska’s icebox while producing record warmth. The wild swing follows a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that contrasts Alaska's frigid January and the Lower 48's mild month. This week, Alaska weather forecasters on Facebook noted the state's suddenly see-sawing temperatures. Few locations have swung as widely as the Interior community of McGrath. On Thursday, the town of 350 set a Feb. 9 record high of 43 degrees, said Michael Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. Just five days earlier, McGrath's temperature was 85 degrees lower, when the mercury dipped to minus-42. It was even colder during some January days, said Phil Graham, acting city clerk. The weather service says on Jan. 28 the low was minus-54. That's a 97-degree swing in a dozen days. "Anybody who's been here a while said no one has seen anything like it before," Graham said. The change is welcome in McGrath. Residents weren't wearing shorts on Thursday, but "they were walking around with smiles on their faces." Juneau also set a record high of 48 degrees yesterday, beating the old 1968 record by one degree, said Lawson.
Posted 12 February 2012; 9:09:08 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory press release via RedOrbit, 1 February 2012) -- The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised a warning level for a remote Alaskan volcano on Tuesday, indicating a possible eruption. The center elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano after a new lava dome was spotted in the summit crater. Officials said the dome was about 130 feet in diameter as of Monday. The volcano is a 5,675-foot peak on an uninhabited island, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Authorities say sudden eruptions could occur at any time, and ash clouds 20,000 feet above sea level are possible. The observatory did say that there have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity “during this current lava eruption.” Cleveland had one of its first explosive eruptions since 2001 on December 25 and 29 last year, destroying the dome that had grown in the crater over the year. “The volcano’s most recent significant eruption began in February, 2001 and it produced 3 explosive events that produced ash clouds as high as 39,000 feet above sea level,” the observatory said Tuesday. “The 2001 eruption also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.” The volcano lies directly below the commercial airline path between North America and Asia, meaning a major eruption could disrupt international air travel. About 90 percent of all air freight from Asia to Europe and North America flies over Alaska air space, and hundreds of flights fly through Anchorage’s air space on a daily basis.
Posted 3 February 2012; 12:56:38 AM. Permalink
(Dan Vergano/USA Today, 28 January 2012) -- A strong solar storm grazed Earth's magnetic field last week, delivering beautiful auroral lights to the polar skies. The S3-class storm, on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scale that rises from S1 to S5, represents the opening salvo in the coming peak of outbursts over the next year or so. "The solar cycle is increasing, and so we are going to get more storms," says University of Michigan space weather expert Tamas Gombosi. "Once an eruption happens on the sun, even the biggest ones, we'll have at least a day's warning." The current cycle was slow in getting cranked up, Gombosi adds, but appears headed for its normal peak in 2013, part of an 11-year cycle that has been documented by astronomers for centuries. The cycle drives conditions on the sun's surface, where superheated gas bubbles upward at temperatures near 9,940 degrees Fahrenheit. Where the sun's magnetic field becomes tangled, cooler sunspots result, some a mere 5,000 degrees. Those sunspots are draped by strong magnetic fields that spit out solar storms, outbursts of charged particles and radiation shot into space. "These eruptions kind of come off the sun in a cone shape, and sometimes head our way," says Solar Dynamics Observatory scientist Phillip Chamberlin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Chamberlin and colleagues quickly spotted last week's outburst, allowing NOAA "space weather" scientists to predict both its peak time and that it would be a glancing blow, passing above Earth's north pole. "They got it right to within seven minutes," Chamberlin says. "That is simply amazing." The storm peaked Jan. 24 and disrupted high-frequency radio signals for two days, Chamberlin says.
Posted 30 January 2012; 12:53:21 AM. Permalink
(CBC News via Eye on the Arctic, 27 January 2012) -- The caribou herd on Southampton Island, which was once wiped out in the 1950s, may face extinction once again. Mitch Campbell, a wildlife biologist with the Government of Nunavut, a territory in Canada's eastern Arctic, says disease and overhunting are threatening the herd on the island at the mouth of Hudson Bay. He said a reproductive disease called brucellosis infected the island herd in 2000. As a result, pregnancy rates have dropped to about 30 per cent from 80 per cent, he said. Now social media like Facebook and cheap shipping rates from the airlines for country food are helping people in Nunavut communities like Iqaluit, where caribou is scarce, order meat from hunters in the Southhampton Island Inuit community of Coral Harbour, putting more stress on the herd. The herd on Southampton Island was hunted to extinction in the 1950s, and was re-established when 50 animals were transplanted there in 1968. "They've gone down from a high of 30,000 in 1997 to what we surveyed this last June which was about 7,500 animals," said Campbell. Campbell said more than 1,500 caribou had been exported this winter, which is higher than the birth rate, and that is only halfway through the season. "We believe that if this isn't stopped, this is an unsustainable harvest and probably will cause the population to be devastated within the next three years or so," he said. "One of the only ways that we will be able to control the harvest is by applying a total allowable harvest." Campbell said efforts to meet with the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization have been unsuccessful. No one from the organization was available to speak with CBC.
Posted 30 January 2012; 12:41:02 AM. Permalink
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 6, 2012 (ENS) - This weekend, on its way to deliver more than a million gallons of emergency fuel to the town of Nome, Alaska, the Russian tanker Renda will move through an area used by wintering spectacled eiders, a federally threatened sea duck. To protect the ducks and their habitat, resource managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and navigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are using satellite telemetry information from the U.S. Geological Survey to plot a route for the tanker that minimizes its impact. "Protecting America's fish and wildlife resources is a shared responsibility. It is satisfying to see agencies working together to protect threatened and endangered species, while meeting the needs of our communities," said Ellen Lance, the Endangered Species Branch chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska Region. The arctic nesting sea ducks are now wintering south of St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea, where sea ice and abundant prey make their winter survival possible. But in Nome, a fuel shortage is creating an emergency. Fuel delivery to the town of 3,600, located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the southwest side of the Seward Peninsula, was delayed by what AccuWeather's Vickie Frantz calls the "snowicane" conditions that struck during the first week of November. A fuel barge carrying 1.6 million gallons of fuel was en route to Nome when the storm hit. The barge was delayed and was unable to reach the town before winter sea ice closed in. Nome is now surrounded by foot-thick ice. In early December, the Sitnasuak Native Corporation of Nome signed a contract with the Alaska company Vitus Marine to deliver more than a million gallons of diesel fuel and 400,000 gallons of gasoline to Nome via a double-hulled Ice Classed Russian tanker. The vessel is certified to travel through four feet of ice and recently traveled through five feet of ice for extended distances while delivering fuel to communities in the Russian Far East.
Posted 8 January 2012; 8:00:50 PM. Permalink
(Canadian Press via CTV, 4 January 2012) -- HALIFAX - A new scientific study suggests harp seals in the North Atlantic are dying at high rates because of warming waters and a steady decline of sea ice in their traditional breeding grounds. The research by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina tracked the decrease of sea ice due to global warming and the mortality of harp seals from 1992 to 2010. David Johnston, a marine scientist who co-wrote the report, said it's the first study to show that seasonal ice cover in the four seal breeding areas of North America has receded by as much as six per cent per decade. "There has been a string of light ice years recently and we're starting to be concerned that if ice continues to decline, this might have longer-term effects on the harp seal population," Johnston said from his office in Beaufort, N.C. "I'm concerned that these animals are in for a tough road with what we're seeing with climate change." The authors warned that they could see the disappearance of a year's entire seal pup herd due to a lack of ice, where females traditionally go to give birth every February and March. Pups usually drown if born in the water or on thin, unstable ice. The study was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which has lobbied against the annual Canadian seal hunt. Johnston said the participation of the animal-rights group didn't affect the objectivity of the report, which was peer-reviewed.
Posted 5 January 2012; 11:23:32 AM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 4 January 2012) -- Russia plans to continue its large-scaled clean-up of Arctic islands in 2012. As much as 18 000 tons of scrap metal will be shipped out through the Nenets port of Amderma. Russia wants to clean up the environmental mess on its Arctic Islands and has allocated hundreds of millions of rubles for the work over the coming years. Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment plans to continue reversing accumulated environmental damage in the Arctic. In 2012 Russia will focus on cleaning up polluted areas on Svalbard and Amderma. Between 12,000 and 18,000 tons of scrap metal will be shipped from the port of Amderma, Deputy Minister Rinat Gizatullin said according to the Nenets paper Nyaryana Vynder. Amderma is planned to become a key site in the development of offshore oil and gas fields in the western part of the Russian Arctic and an important base for traffic along the Northern Sea Route. According to preliminary estimates, the total polluted area around Amderma exceeds 82 square kilometers and the local scrap stockpiles may amount to more than 114 000 tons. The Arctic clean-up started in 2011, when the research vessel Mikhail Somov transported more than 1800 empty fuel barrels collected on the Wrangel Island and on Franz Josef Land to Arkhangelsk. According to the Russian information and analytical portal Arctic Universe, there are still some 250,000 barrels holding some 40 to 60,000 tons of oil products on Franz Josef Land. Also, some additional one million empty barrels are dumped near the now closed down bases. Other kinds of waste include abounded [sic] aircrafts, rusty broken radar stations, different kind of Arctic vehicles and other leftover garbage. The Russian government has allocated 740 million rubles to Arctic environmental cleanup in 2011 and 2012.
Posted 5 January 2012; 10:38:12 AM. Permalink
(Alex de Marban/Alaska Dispatch, 20 December 2011) -- A federal agency said Tuesday that tests indicate a virus did not cause the deaths or illnesses of more than 100 Arctic Alaska ringed seals found with skin sores, ulcers on internal organs, patchy hair loss and other symptoms. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced via press release that despite numerous tests, it still does not know what's causing the illness. Deaths in the Arctic and Bering Strait region of Alaska have been declared an unusual mortality event, a status that provides additional resources to investigate the cause, including access to more expertise and a contingency fund, the agency said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering making a similar declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska. "Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in," the NOAA press release said. "During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay (in Northwest Alaska)." The disease has caused skin ulcers that usually appear on the animals' hind flippers or face. Some of the sick animals have had difficulty breathing and appear lethargic. Also, some necropsies have revealed "fluid in the lungs, white spots on the liver, and abnormal brain growths." Scientists suspect that those internal wounds may be caused by bacteria entering the animals' bodies through the ulcers, said Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist and working group member of the Provincial Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in British Columbia. Testing continues for causes related to "immune system-related diseases, fungi, man-made and bio-toxins, radiation exposure, contaminants, and stressors related to sea ice change," the agency reported.
Posted 21 December 2011; 2:26:13 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 15 December 2011) -- A pond hockey game involving Yukon College students went viral on the video-sharing website YouTube this week. Gabe Rivest stumbled upon a smooth-as-glass lake on Windy Arm, which is part of Tagish Lake in Yukon. He grabbed six classmates and they hit the ice Sunday. Rivest posted video footage of the playful game on YouTube for his family and friends to see, but he was surprised when Sportsnet posted the video on its website. In just three days, more than 100,000 people had checked out Rivest's video. "I was totally not expecting it," he said. "I guess for lots of people in the world, it's probably a very amazing thing to see. It was unreal to be there." Rivest is now in Whistler, B.C., to coach the Yukon snowboarding team. He said he can hardly keep up with all the email he has been getting about the Windy Arm video [see it for yourself].
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 19 December 2011) -- Russian media is now asking why the whole crew stayed onboard during the towing of the oil jack-up rig ”Kolskaya” that overturned and sank in the Sea of Okhotsk yesterday. With the break of day, search for survivors and dead after the accident outside the island of Sakhalin continued. 14 dead have so far been found, the Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport's web site reads. The rig sank in course of only 20 minutes, Murmansk Oblast Governor Dmitry Dmitriyenko told RIA Novosti. 32 of the 67 people aboard came from the Murmansk region. 14 persons were found alive after the accident and picked up by boats taking part in the rescue operation. All the 14 survivors were on duty on deck during the towing and were wearing survival suits and life-jackets. ... Russian media is now asking why the whole crew stayed onboard during the towing, and why towing was conducted at all in such bad weather. A source in the Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport says to Kommersant that half of the people onboard had nothing to do with the towing operation – they were drilling operators, crane operators and others. – The number of casualties did not have to be that high, the source says. According to Russian instructions for safety at sea, only a required minimum of personnel should be onboard a vessel that is being towed. The Russian Agency for Transport Supervision has started investigation of the accident. The weather in the area is bad, with wind of 10 m/s, waves of 2 meters and temperature of -2°C. The water temperature is 1°C.
Posted 19 December 2011; 10:36:35 AM. Permalink
(A. Rienstra/IceNews, 18 December 2011) -- Greenland’s bedrock rose significantly last year due to the loss of 100 billion tonnes of ice during the particularly warm summer. Researchers from Ohio State University found that during 2010, part of country’s landmass rose more than half a centimetre more than in recent years. The data were collected from GPS stations which usually record an average uplift of about a centimetre per year in the Arctic country. “But a temperature spike in 2010 lifted the bedrock a detectably higher amount over a short five-month period – as high as 20 mm in some locations,” Michael Bevis, an geologist from the POLENET research network told a conference of the American Geophysical Union this week. He added that the changes must be due to the increased ice loss. “Really, there is no other explanation. The uplift anomaly correlates with maps of the 2010 melting day anomaly. In locations where there were many extra days of melting in 2010, the uplift anomaly is highest,” Bevis said. For every 100 billion tonnes of loss from the Greenland ice sheet, global sea levels are thought to increase by around 0.25mm. “Pulses of extra melting and uplift imply that we’ll experience pulses of extra sea level rise. The process is not really a steady process,” Bevis said.
Posted 19 December 2011; 10:15:27 AM. Permalink
(Sami Radio Sweden via Eye on the Arctic, 5 December 2011) -- Mild weather continued throughout the fall in the traditional Sami territories in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwestern Russia. This has been the warmest fall since the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) began recording temperatures. SMHI meteorologist Sverker Hällström reports that this fall has had primarily southerly and westerly winds. Sameradion (Radio Sami) compared the temperatures of several locations in northern Sweden and Norway. In all locations, this fall's average temperature has been from three to eight degrees warmer than the normal average temperature. In Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost town, the average temperature in the first half of November was over 1 degree Celsius. November's average temperature is usually minus 6.5 degrees Celsius. "November as a month and this entire fall will be the warmest on record, and we've been measuring for over 100 years," says Sverker Hällström. The reason is a low pressure system over the Atlantic causing warm air to blow from the south or west, resulting in wind and rain with some snow in the mountains. And the warm weather will continue, according to meteorologist Sverker Hällström. "We still can't see a real cold air outbreak, so the temperature will remain on the milder side," says Sverker Hällström, adding that the climate is changing. "A mild fall like this fits right into the pattern: we're slowly but surely moving toward slightly warmer conditions," says Hällström.
Posted 5 December 2011; 4:00:19 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 25 November 2011) -- There has been considerable seismic activity north of Grímsey island, Iceland’s northernmost inhabited island, lately with a quake measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale hitting less than two kilometers north of the island yesterday. An islander who was working in the fish processing plant in the harbor area at the time described the tremor as if a large truck had rammed the building at full speed. However, no one was harmed and no damages were caused, visir.is reports. The seismic activity continued through the night but no other quakes of a similar magnitude were registered. It is common for series of earthquakes to occur in the region.
Posted 27 November 2011; 11:52:52 AM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 13 November 2011) -- The volcano Hekla in south Iceland can now be watched live on the website of telecommunications company Míla, which recently placed a new webcam in the vicinity, facing the mountain. Hekla is a 1,491-meter-high volcanic ridge and one of the best known and most active volcanoes in Iceland. It has both been called “the queen of Icelandic volcanoes” and “the gateway to hell.” Although there are no signs of an immediate eruption in Hekla, some scientists have speculated that it might be preparing for one. Míla now has nine webcams in Iceland, most of which are located in the southern part of the country. The company first put up a live webcam during the volcanic eruptions on Fimmvörduháls and Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, mbl.is reports. Click here to read more about risk assessment for Icelandic volcanoes and here to read about Katla, which might also be preparing to erupt.
Posted 13 November 2011; 11:55:54 AM. Permalink
(Michael König, 12 November 2011) -- Time lapse sequences of photographs taken with a special low-light 4K-camera by the crew of expedition 28 and 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011. Music added. List of locations on the Vimeo page.
Posted 13 November 2011; 11:51:00 AM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters via Chicago Tribune, 11 November 2011) -- Anchorage, AK - The worst was over on Thursday for an "epic" winter storm that pounded Alaska's west coast with wind and snow and left one man missing after a 10-foot surge of seawater into Nome, officials said. The storm, considered the strongest to hit western Alaska in several decades, has largely moved northwest toward the Russian Arctic, said Don Moore, a National Weather Service meteorologist. A second, smaller Bering Sea storm is now brewing, and will send additional surges into the coastal towns and villages during high tide later in the day, said Moore, who has been working at the state's emergency operations center. The surges will not be as dramatic as those from the first storm but could cause more flooding, he said. "If the water levels were not elevated from the storm that had just passed, this other storm would not be a major issue," he said. "Once this passes off, this is when we'll see conditions start returning to normal." One person was missing in the storm. Authorities in Teller, a small community north of Nome, were searching Thursday for 26-year-old Kyle Komok, said the Alaska State Troopers. Komok was last seen Wednesday evening driving a four-wheel vehicle toward a small local jetty, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said. At the time, waves eight to 10 feet high were hitting the local seawall, Peters said.
Posted 11 November 2011; 2:24:00 PM. Permalink
(NOAA Climate Services via RedOrbit,20 October 2011) -- This past spring, scientists observed the largest, most severe ozone destruction ever witnessed in the Arctic since records began in 1978. In part, it’s because CFCs stick around in the atmosphere for a very long time. But the maps above reveal the main reason this winter’s Arctic ozone loss was so much worse than it normally is: unusually persistent cold temperatures. From January through March 2011, monthly average temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere were colder than usual. Places where temperatures were up to 9 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average (1979-2009) are red, while places where temperatures were up to 16 degrees cooler than average are blue. Colder-than-usual temperatures dominated the stratosphere all three months, especially in March. What does the cold have to do with the ozone hole? Extreme cold allows clouds to form in the stratosphere, even though the air there is extremely dry. The clouds make rare chemical reactions possible. Normally, when CFCs break down, the chlorine they release gets incorporated into very stable molecules that don’t react with ozone. But on the surface of particles in these unusual ice clouds, the stable molecules are converted into forms of chlorine that are much more reactive. In general, the colder the stratosphere is over the winter, the more of the reactive, ozone-destroying chemicals that build up. The return of the Sun to the polar regions in the spring triggers the ozone-destroying reactions. However, once the temperatures begin to warm up, fewer stratospheric clouds form, and the creation of ozone-destroying forms of chlorine slows. The ozone loss bottoms out for the season, and the ozone layer gradually regenerates over the summer. (Ozone naturally forms when oxygen is exposed to ultraviolet light.)
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:07:38 PM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 5 October 2011) -- Russia has made a single voluntary contribution worth 10 million euros to the Arctic Council to support clean up work on the Arctic North. The clean up is part of the nature-conservation projects under the agreement signed by Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev and Managing Director of Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) Magnus Rystedt. Russia is the first country which signed this document, Trutnev said. He added that Russia has already started clean up work on Franz Joseph Land and Wrangel island. The Arctic Council comprises Russia, Canada Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the US.
Posted 14 October 2011; 3:47:59 PM. Permalink
(Olga Denisova/Voice of Russia, 10 October 2011) -- Russia has launched a cleaning up operation in its Arctic region. A programme to revive Franz Josef Land is being worked out following an expedition to the archipelago. Moreover, Russia will allocate 10 million Euros to the Arctic Council for supporting cleaning up projects in the Polar Region in 2011-2013. Franz Josef Land is one of the key Arctic territories that need urgent ecological support for cleaning up hazardous waste. Earlier, there were a military base and a hydro-meteorological station, but at present the territory is a huge garbage dump site. Semi-destroyed warehouses, hangers, machines and equipment and about 400,000 barrels of oil products remind of active life that existed in the 60s and 70s. The barrels will be removed first because some of them have rusted and oil has been leaking into the soil. Further destruction of containers poses a serious and chronic threat to the environment. After a geological and ecological survey, a complete list of pollutants and locations of polluted territories and their floor spaces have been prepared. New information as well as the results of previous expeditions will help to work out a programme on the ecological revival of the islands, says an official of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Olga Burkanova: “The removal of the sources of pollution will be carried out first and foremost in 2012-2013. Moreover, other projects will be simultaneously implemented to clean up the polluted territories on Wrangel Island in the Chukotka Autonomous region and also in the Nenets Autonomous region. It’s planned to dispose about 27,000 tons of scrap metal in the next two years. The Russian government will spend about 50 million U.S. dollars to clean up ecologically hazardous waste from Franz Josef Land in the coming two years.
Posted 11 October 2011; 3:29:54 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 15 August 2011) -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The designation of Wild and Scenic Rivers and a new National Wilderness Area are central to a new 15-year draft conservation management plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday. The Obama administration's plan comes as the State of Alaska is preparing to open millions of acres of state-owned arctic lands on the western border of the refuge to an oil and gas lease sale. The Fish and Wildlife Service's draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement contains six alternatives for long-term management. One alternative recommends that Congress designate the Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning rivers as Wild and Scenic Rivers. ... But, the plan says, refuge staff have received visitor reports of group crowding at boat launches; user conflicts; excessive over-flights; fire rings, tent rings, and human waste accumulations at concentrated access points and popular camp areas; hardening or impairment of fragile riparian and tundra habitats; and increased footprint of aircraft landing areas. or further protection, the Service is considering designating three areas, including the Arctic Refuge coastal plain and the Brooks Range of mountains, for inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System. None of the proposals under consideration would change existing protocols for subsistence harvest. To get public opinion on the six options, the agency is conducting a series of public meetings and reviewing public comments before finalizing the plan, which will ultimately identify a preferred alternative.
Posted 21 August 2011; 9:21:52 AM. Permalink
(Emily Chung/CBC News, 15 August 2011) -- The Arctic will switch from being a carbon sink to a carbon source by the end of this century as the permafrost thaws and emits greenhouse gases, a new study suggests. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted that land-based ecosystems in the Far North would store more carbon from the atmosphere as the climate gets warmer. That's because more plants are expected to flourish in the North, taking in more carbon as they grow and as their growing season gets longer. Storing more carbon this way would turn the Arctic into a carbon "sink" and help mitigate climate change, as carbon dioxide is considered one of the main heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But the UN panel based its prediction on models that didn't account for the effect of thawing permafrost. That permanently frozen soil layer contains billions of tonnes of plant and animal matter that has remained trapped there for up to tens of thousands of years. The thawing of the permafrost could allow that material to decompose and release its carbon back into the atmosphere.
Posted 20 August 2011; 6:16:17 PM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 16 August 2011) -- You are what you eat — and that maxim may include the shape and geometry of your jawbone. A lifetime of strenuous mastication on muktuk and tough wild meat harvested near the Chukchi Sea gave a group of pre-contact Inupiat Alaskans rounder and tougher jawbones, a finding that may offer physical anthropologists another method to sort out the dietary habits of other prehistoric peoples, says a research paper published this summer in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It turns out that what people eat, and whether they they used their teeth to prep hides, gradually alters the structure of their mandibles in predictable ways, according to a study that used the X-ray guns and the principles of engineering stress to analyze 63 jawbones from Inupiat people who lived near the modern village of Point Hope 300 to 400 years ago. Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution compared these Alaskan remains to the jawbones from 42 Arikara Indians who lived in what is now South Dakota about the same time. They found dramatic differences that could be traced back to known differences in diet and lifestyle of the two groups.
Posted 18 August 2011; 12:45:36 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 10 August 2011) -- A volcano on a remote Aleutian island has begun erupting but is not yet generating large ash plumes that would pose danger to aircraft, officials said Tuesday. The eruption at Cleveland volcano is a slow effusion of magma that is forming a lava dome, and not an explosive eruption that generates large ash plumes, said John Power, the scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. "So far, it's just lava as far as we can tell from our satellite imagery and the people who have managed to see it from passing airplanes," he said. The volcano is in a very remote area, on uninhabited Chuginadak Island in the Aleutian Islands, and that lowers the danger level.
Posted 10 August 2011; 5:27:46 PM. Permalink
(RedOrbit - Science, 6 August 2011) -- Shell, the largest oil company in Europe, has been given conditional approval by American government officials to begin drilling exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012, Alex Ogle of the AFP reported on Friday. In a statement released Thursday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) confirmed that the Department of the Interior has, in Ogle's words, "opened the doors to Shell's proposal for four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska's Beaufort Sea to start in July 2012, said in a statement Thursday." "We base our decisions regarding energy exploration and development in the Arctic on the best scientific information available," BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich told AFP, adding that they agency would review Shell's activities to ensure that they acted in a "safe and environmentally responsible manner." Shell, who still needs to obtain permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service, among others, welcomed the news, saying that they had "cautious optimism" that they would be able to drill there in a year's time. Environmental groups were less pleased. "This is a disaster waiting to happen, but still BOEMRE is moving forward with Arctic Ocean drilling," Earthjustice attorney Holly Harris said in a statement Thursday, according to Ogle.
Posted 8 August 2011; 4:22:16 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory via RedOrbit, 24 July 2011) -- The Alaska Volcano Observatory has issued an eruption advisory for a remote volcano in the Aleutian Islands which, according to various media reports, lies underneath a major American flight route. According to the Daily Mail, the volcano in question--5,676-foot tall Mount Cleveland (also known as Cleveland Volcano) on the western end of the island of Chuhinadak--"could be poised for its first big eruption in ten years," which has experts anticipating that "it could erupt at any moment, spewing ash clouds up to 20,000 feet above sea level with little further warning." Yereth Rosen of Reuters reports that "thermal anomalies" had been detected via satellite on Thursday, and that the volcano, which is located approximately 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, "could erupt with little further warning." "A major eruption could disrupt international air travel because Cleveland Volcano, like others in the Aleutians, lies directly below the commercial airline flight path between North America and Asia, said John Power, scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory," Rosen added. Airlines have been warned to brace themselves for possible "travel chaos," the Daily Mail reported late Friday night. Mount Cleveland rests underneath a flight path between North America and Asia that is said to be utilized by several major airlines.
Posted 24 July 2011; 3:32:14 PM. Permalink
(Our Amazing Planet/MSNBC, 13 July 2011) -- A ship expedition is under way to conduct the first modern-day survey of seafloor depths along a vast region of the Arctic Ocean. Water depth in the Kotzebue Sound, off northwestern Alaska, hasn't been studied in more than a century — since the United States bought Alaska in 1867. The 230-foot Fairweather, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) survey vessel, set off from Kodiak, Alaska, on July 7 and will spend two months at sea, measuring ocean depths across roughly 530 square miles in a region that is seeing a marked increase in ship traffic. Satellite measurements that began in 1979 show that Arctic sea ice cover has been declining steadily. As sea ice has disappeared, ships have taken advantage of the open water. "The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading over time to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns," said NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather, in a statement. "Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels," Neander said. The Fairweather and its survey launches are equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic technology to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor and detect underwater hazards that could pose a danger to surface vessels. The ship itself will survey the deeper waters, while the launches work in shallow areas. Recent expeditions to the Arctic are attempting to better understand the processes that are fueling the loss of the region's ice.
Posted 13 July 2011; 10:57:44 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 29 June 2011) -- Komi is the region in Northwest Russia with the biggest number of wildfires this year. So far, a total of 138 fires have put major areas ablaze, Komiinform.ru reports. The biggest fire, one in the Sosnogorsk area, is now covering a territory bigger than 1000 hectares. A state of emergency has been declared in the region, Rossiiskaya Gazeta informs. Firefighters had just got a 900 hectare fire in the Pechora municipality under control when the Sosnogorsk fire started spreading with alarming pace. A total of 18 fires are now reported to rage in the region, of which six have been localized by the authorities. Many Russians now fear another year with serious wildfires. Last summer, several huge fires left major parts of the country under a thick cover of smoke.
Posted 1 July 2011; 12:24:58 AM. Permalink
(IceNews, 28 June 2011) -- The nesting season of many types of sea bird all around Iceland has been poor this year and there is an all-out puffin and Arctic tern collapse in progress to the south and west of the country. Ornithologists say the situation has not looked worse for many decades. Scientists have been travelling around Iceland in recent days and weeks, researching sea bird stocks and the status of their nesting. RUV reported at the weekend that extremely few Arctic tern nests were found on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, where thousands of the birds usually lay their eggs. A similarly worrying picture is emerging about the puffin stock and the situation is particularly bad on the Westman Islands and the south and west of the Icelandic mainland. Ornithologist Aevar Pedersen told RUV that the situation had been bad last year, but is even worse this year. The overall picture is pretty dismal, he said — adding that he has not seen a worse breeding season for many years, indeed decades. “Among sea birds it is generally extremely poor, and among waders it seems to be quite poor as well — at the very least they are nesting very late. We have been looking at snipes out west on Flatey island in Breidafjordur and there are only about 20 percent as many as there should be. On the other hand, it appears to be a good nesting season for small birds like wagtails and snow buntings,” Pedersen said. The nesting season among Arctic terns and puffins has simply failed to take place in large parts of Iceland. Both species mainly eat sand eels which have almost disappeared — especially in the seas to the south and west of Iceland. Puffins are still nesting in North Iceland, where they feed on capelin; but the lack of sand eels further south is causing Arctic tern and puffin breeding seasons to fail yet again. The most plausible explanation for the sand eels’ disappearance is the continued ocean warming around Iceland.
Posted 1 July 2011; 12:15:48 AM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News via Montreal Gazette, 24 June 2011) -- New scientific evidence supporting a long-standing theory that abrupt climate change probably doomed Greenland's Norse settlements about 650 years ago may also explain why most Canadians today are not speaking Danish and celebrating their Viking ancestry. The study by a group of researchers from Denmark, Germany and Norway used samples of marine sediment from Greenland's west coast to reconstruct a picture of the giant island's climate over the past 1,500 years. Their findings showed that when Scandinavian settlers led by Eric the Red first established colonies on Greenland in 985, the west coast around present-day Disko Bay — located just 400 kilometres east of Baffin Island across the Davis Strait — was relatively warm and conducive to the farming life the settlers favoured.
Posted 24 June 2011; 6:13:48 AM. Permalink
(AP via Washington Post, 5 April 2011) -- STOCKHOLM - The ice of Greenland and the rest of the Arctic is melting faster than expected and could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century, dramatically higher than earlier projections, an authoritative international assessment says. The findings “emphasize the need for greater urgency” in combating global warming, says the report of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the scientific arm of the eight-nation Arctic Council. The warning of much higher seas comes as the world’s nations remain bogged down in their two-decade-long talks on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. ... The new report, whose executive summary was obtained by The Associated Press, is to be delivered to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and foreign ministers of the other seven member nations at an Arctic Council meeting next week in Greenland. It first will be discussed by some 400 international scientists at a conference this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Posted 5 May 2011; 11:54:35 AM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 30 April 2011) -- Many come to Iceland for the amazing northern lights. Sometimes you are lucky to see them, sometimes not. Amateur photographer Ásgeir Ingvarsson took more than 6,500 photos of the sky over Reykjavík and made a video of the nights in the vicinity of Reykjavík. Ingvarsson said in an interview with pressan.is that many of his photos were taken in Reykjanes (the Keflavík area), Hvalfjördur and Thingvellir. The lighthouse at Grótta by Reykjavík is also great. “I had the idea in December and I wish I had got it a bit earlier since a lot of nights have been cloudy since then. But I used the nights when some stars could be seen and the northern lights were active.” Many tourists come to Iceland in winter to see the northern light and some hotels even specialize in such tours. But you can never be sure so watch Ingvarson’s amazing video, an be sure to enlarge it to full screen. AURORA ISLANDICA - a Northern Lights Timelapse from Agust Ingvarsson on Vimeo.
Posted 30 April 2011; 2:45:04 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 28 April 2011) -- A massive iceberg, originally about 250 square kilometres, that broke off a Greenland glacier last August is near northern Labrador, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. The drifting ice island that broke off the Petermann Glacier on Aug. 5 moved into Canadian waters this spring. "Last week it was up off the southern portion of the Baffin Island and across the Hudson Strait. So we're starting to see it now on the northern portion of Labrador,” the coast guard’s superintendent of ice operations, Dan Frampton, told CBC News on Thursday morning. He said it’s difficult to say what will happen to the large iceberg that's estimated to be twice the size of many of the islands scattered around the the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. "How far south it comes and how close it comes into the coast of Labrador remains to be seen.… [sic] It could break up [near Labrador] as a result of sea action and islands and so on," said Frampton. "It will be interesting to see how much is left by the time it gets to Newfoundland."
Posted 30 April 2011; 2:09:38 PM. Permalink
(BigPond News, 17 April 2011) -- Arctic coastlines are crumbling away and retreating at the rate of two metres or more a year due to the effects of climate change, a report says. In some locations, up to 30 metres of the shore has been vanishing every year. The rapid rate of coastal erosion poses a major threat to local communities and ecosystems, according to a new report by more than 30 scientists from ten countries. Two-thirds of Arctic coasts consist of frozen soil, or permafrost, rather than rock, and are highly sensitive to erosion by wind and waves. Rising temperatures are melting protective sea ice fringing the coastlines and leaving them more exposed to the elements, say the experts. The report, State of the Arctic Coast 2010, says ten-year average rates of coastal retreat are 'typically in the one to two metres per year range, but vary up to 10 to 30 metres per year in some locations'. Worst-hit areas include the Beaufort Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea.
Posted 17 April 2011; 12:26:10 AM. Permalink
(Thomas Nilsen/Barents Observer, 17 February 2011) -- Norilsk-Nickel, the biggest air-polluter in the Barents Region, says the upgrade of smelting facilities in Nikel is assessed to 4,6 billion rubles. Norilsk-Nickel proudly announces the results of its environmental activities for 2010 in a press-release. But, the reduction in emission over the last year is only at the metal-giant’s plants in Norilsk in Siberia. For the plants on the Kola Peninsula, emission cuts are still to come. Like in the 2009, Norilsk-Nickel also this year says the new briquetting lines in Zapolyarny will be launched and consequently emissions of sulphur dioxide will be cut with 95 percent. In a press-release dated September 24, 2009 Norilsk-Nickel said the start-up and adjustment of the first line would start in August 2010. Today, the company says it will be launched in first half of 2011. But, as BarentsObserver previously has reported, the modernization in Zapolyarny will only “move” the emission to the smelter in Nikel, just some few kilometers from the border to Norway. Instead of being emitted from the briquetting process, the contained sulphur will be emitted as SO2 from the smelter in the neighboring town of Nikel. At least until the plant in Nikel gets new technology and cleaning facilities. In January, BarentsObserver reported that a modernization deal for Nikel soon will be signed with the Finnish company Outokumpu. In its press-release today, Norilsk-Nickel says the modernization costs is preliminarily assessed at 4,6 billion rubles (€120 million). The smelters and processing plants in Monchegorsk, also on the Kola Peninsula, is not mentioned in the environmental press statement for 2010.
Posted 20 February 2011; 2:01:55 PM. Permalink
[Found lodged in the crevices of my web site] (Mareike Aden/Living Planet, 12 March 2010) -- In the Bikin River Valley, in the region close to Russia's border with China, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and the indigenous locals have found an unusual conservation solution.
[Found lodged in the crevices of my web site] (CBC News, 23 February 2010) -- An Alberta archeological firm's proposal to test survey equipment in an Arctic waterway has hit a roadblock over concerns about the long-lost ships of Sir John Franklin. ProCom Marine Survey and Archeology had asked the Nunavut Impact Review Board to approve its proposal to conduct work in Larsen Sound, 195 kilometres northwest of Taloyoak in western Nunavut. The company's project, called Polar North, would use autonomous underwater vehicles to "develop solutions relating to offshore surveying for oil and gas in Arctic conditions," according to proposal documents. If approved, the work would take place in April and August this year. But in a letter to territorial Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, the review board recommends that he modify or abandon ProCom's proposal on the basis of the project's location and "unacceptable potential adverse impacts to cultural resources."Larsen Sound is considered to be the final resting spot for one or both of the famed British explorer's ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared during a doomed expedition to chart the Northwest Passage more than 160 years ago. "It was primarily the location of the project, and the fact that there are recognized national historic sites that are believed to be in Larsen Sound," Ryan Barry, an official with the review board, told CBC News. "The concerns, primarily from the [Nunavut] Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, were such that they saw the potential for impact to these historic sites." ProCom's latest proposal does not mention Franklin's ships, but the company ran into trouble with the Nunavut government when it tried to look for the lost ships last fall without the necessary permits.Barry said the board reviewed ProCom's Polar North application in consultation with community organizations in the hamlets of Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk, as well as with officials from the federal and territorial governments and Inuit organizations. Major concerns about the project were raised during those consultations, with the proposed location being most significant, Barry said. According to the review board, the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth recommends that ProCom relocate the project to another body of water north of Larsen Sound, excluding Lancaster Sound.
Posted 15 February 2011; 3:17:57 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 14 February 2011) -- This winter's coldest temperature of -37.9 degrees Celsius was recorded on Monday morning at Kevojärvi in Utsjoki, Lapland. Elsewhere in the far north, it was -37.5 degrees in Toholammi and -37.2 in Inari. The official reading on Monday at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport was -23.4 degrees Celsius, and temperatures fell to -32 in Kuopio in Savo, -31.7 in Jyväskylä, in Central Finland. This winter's previous low in Finland was recorded on January 15th at Kevojärvi when the thermometer showed -37 degrees. Temperatures of -35.5 and -34.5 have also been recorded in other parts of Lapland. The all-time low in Finland, according to measurements by the Meteorological Institute, was recorded on January 28, 1999 at Kittilä in Finnish Lapland when the mercury fell to -51.5 degrees.
Posted 14 February 2011; 4:35:42 PM. Permalink
(West Virginia Public Radio - 19 January 2011) -- Yesterday afternoon attendees to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services heard from former President Jimmy Carter about his efforts to expand the Arctic refuge and protect it from oil drilling. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1960 under Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. But it was President Jimmy Carter and his interior secretary Cecil Andrus who found a way to expand the refuge over the objections of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Carter said he and Andrus used the 1906 Antiquities Act to declare 17 parcels precious places they wanted to preserve. “And the cumulative size of them was 67 million acres, about the same size as the state of Minnesota to put it in perspective,” Carter said. Carter said Stevens, along with some oil and gas companies, argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that what the President did was unconstitutional. “To make a long story short the Supreme Court ruled in my favor,” Carter said. Carter’s decision to preserve so much land was not popular with many Alaskans. ... Carter has tried unsuccessfully to convince the democratic presidents who’ve served since he left office to do more to protect the refuge and he stands ready to fight any future efforts to drill for oil there.
Posted 25 January 2011; 9:58:48 AM. Permalink
(Sara Wheeler, The Independent, 16 January 2011) -- The Russian Arctic is savage. I travelled across it to research my book on the Arctic Circle. My nostrils froze, one of my teeth exploded, and my exhaled breath fell in a tinkle of crystals. The region is so isolated that reindeer-herding residents refer to the rest of Russia as "the mainland". But the landscape is the most powerful I have ever seen: dazzling, pristine, a kind of biological haiku. I love the pared-down existence of polar lands and the grace of their peoples under pressure. Chukotka is an Arctic region the size of Turkey in the Russian Far East (it's the bit Sarah Palin can see from Alaska). This magical slab of ice and tundra has no roads at all outside the capital, Anadyr. It took me two years to weasel my way in, but when I got there, I ran into President Medvedev. That morning he had stepped out of his helicopter to pat a reindeer and listen to some Chukchi folk songs in a local school. He was the first Russian head of state to bother; no tsar had ever come within a thousand miles. Five days previously, in a speech on Arctic policy to the Security Council in Moscow, Medvedev had flagged the reason for his visit. "This region," he said, "accounts for around 20 per cent of Russia's gross domestic product and 22 per cent of our national exports." He was talking about oil and gas. And now he wants more. The emergence of the Arctic as an energy frontier has shunted the entire zone into public consciousness, and hydrocarbon extraction is certainly set to remain an economic driver across the polar lands, not just in Russia. I'm not going to stop burning up my own share, so it would be hypocritical of me to call for a drilling ban. But I hope we don't foul up one of our last true wildernesses. ... And why is so much of the Russian Arctic closed to foreigners? Who is hiding what? On the Domodedovo plane back from Anadyr to Moscow, I sat next to a geochemist who had been working on a research vessel scouting the Barents Sea for potential drilling sites. When I asked if safety procedures were policed, he rolled his eyes and ordered another drink.
Posted 16 January 2011; 2:05:20 AM. Permalink
(Gwladys Fouche/Reuters, 13 January 2011) -- Norway's government may decide in March whether to do an impact assessment study on allowing oil and gas activities in the pristine Lofoten archipelago in the Arctic, a senior official said on Thursday. "The management plan (of Lofoten will be presented) at the end of the first quarter this year. So by the end of March it should be put forward by the ministry of environment," Per Rune Henriksen, deputy oil and energy minister, told Reuters. Environmentalists have repeatedly said that if the "updated management plan for the Barents Sea and the Lofotens" envisages the impact assessment report, it would amount to a big step toward opening the region for exploration. Henriksen declined to comment on the progress of the Lofoten debate within the ruling coalition, which includes the senior Labour party that has in the past backed oil interests and two small green parties fiercely set against opening the region. The region is home to one of the world's largest cod stock and would require drilling closer to shore than in other places offshore Norway, increasing the danger from any spills.
Posted 16 January 2011; 2:00:08 AM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/Barents Observer, 3 January 2011) -- The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources is likely to give the picturesque Khibiny mountains in the Kola Peninsula status as natural park. The establishment of the natural park is included in the ministry’s plans for the period until year 2020, the ministry confirms in a letter to the Murmansk regional government. The project will be assessed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Regional Development before it will be handed over to government for final approval, a press release informs. The Khibiny national park will be a victory for environmentalists in Murmansk Oblast. As previously reported, the environmentalists have repeatedly warned against devastating pressure from industry and called for the establishment of the national park. The Khibiny mountains are highly rick on valuable minerals and metals and the mining industry has several major projects under planning in the area. Also the oil industry pushes for the development of projects in the area, and first of all the laying of the Shtokman gas pipeline from Teriberka to Volkhov.
Posted 8 January 2011; 6:41:18 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 2 January 2011) -- PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY - Thin layer of ash from the active Kizimen volcano has on Sunday covered the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky where 60 percent of the Kamchatka Peninsula residents live, a representative for the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said. "A taint of grey ash typical of Kizimen can be seen on the snow, on the cars and on all of the surfaces in the city," the spokesman said. He said the layer is tiny, about 0.5 millimeters, and added that the current situation does not pose a threat to the health of the local residents. However, the ash could affect the operations of aircraft. The Kizimen volcano is located 265 kilometers away from Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky. Kizimen's last eruption occurred in the end of 1920-s, but it the volcano started to exhibit activity the last June and a new eruption began a month ago.
Posted 2 January 2011; 12:13:54 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 29 December 2010) -- Work is set to begin in the new year to clean up two more DEW Line sites in Nunavut, at Cape Peel and Ross Point. The two sites are among the remaining dozen stations in the Kitikmeot region in Nunavut. They were part of the radar tracking Distant Early Warning Line created across the North in the 1950s and '60s in an effort to protect North America from attack at the height of the Cold War. The sites featured experimental housing modules, state of the art communications structures and airstrips. After they were abandoned, the sites were found to be contaminated with chemicals, including large quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. "The contaminants at the time weren't really considered contaminants," Natalie Plato, director of the Northern Contaminated Sites Program in Nunavut, told CBC News. "There were different disposal practices of the day," she said. "People just dumped it on the ground," All the contaminated soil and materials will be shipped to Alberta for disposal, she said. Because the two Kitikmeot sites are remote, cleanup is expected to cost anywhere from $8 million to $12 million. The goal is to return all the DEW Line sites to their original states, Lou Spagnuolo, with the contaminated sites program, told CBC News.
Posted 30 December 2010; 12:48:27 AM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/The Arctic: The World Affairs Blog Network, 21 December 2010) -- For those of you interested in the Arctic-like conditions making the
collective fingers and toes of Western Europe blue, there is an
interesting blog post on the Wunder Blog.
Some frozen individuals in London and New York decry global warming
when they have to turn up their thermostats in early December, but the
fact is that while Western Europe and the Eastern U.S. are cooling down,
the Arctic is warming up. This is part of the “Hot Arctic - Cold
Continents” pattern. All of the cool air that should be trapped in the
Arctic, helping to keep sea ice frozen, is spilling southward.
Meanwhile, more warm air goes north to replace the cold air flowing out,
resulting in temperatures in Greenland that are 10+ above normal, while
Heathrow is socked in by snow. Such reversals of meteorological
function are caused by alterations in the North Atlantic Oscillation.
When there is a small difference in air pressure between the “Icelandic
Low” and “Azores High,” the north and south poles of the oscillation,
respectively, the Arctic will warm, while the continents will freeze. [Click through to the original post for a graphic that explains what's going on. Wunder Blog also notes that 'the NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.']
Posted 22 December 2010; 10:01:00 AM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver.com, 15 December 2010) -- The Russian Government has allocated RUB 23.4 million to the establishment of a state institution called “Russian Arctic National Park”. This institution will create conditions for regulated tourism in the Arctic. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin informed about the new state institution at the Russian Geographic Society’s congress last week, RIA Novosti reports. The institution is administrated by the Ministry for Natural Resources. The national park covers the northern territory of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, an area known for its rich bird cliffs and large populations of walrus and polar bears. The new state institution will be engaged in ecological monitoring in the national park.
Posted 16 December 2010; 9:24:51 PM. Permalink
(Itar-Tass, 11 December 2010) -- ST. PETERSBURG - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a resolution to set up a special structure to develop the new national park Russian Arctica. The premier said about it at the 14th congress of the Russian Geographic Society. The work of the structure will be aimed at preservation of unique natural complexes, ecological education of citizens and organisation of conditions for civilised tourism, Putin said. The premier believes it can make a serious contribution to carry out the tasks, especially since nature saving issues are again among priorities after a long period, and the environmental protection commission has taken its historic place and has started working actively, the prime minister noted.
Posted 12 December 2010; 10:26:54 PM. Permalink
(Marlowe Hood/Agence France-Presse, 6 December 2010) -- PARIS - Global warming is driving forest fires in northern latitudes to burn more frequently and fiercely, contributing to the threat of runaway climate change, according to a study released Sunday. Increased intensity of fires in Alaska’s vast interior over the last decade has changed the region from a sink to a source of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for heating up the planet, the study found. On balance, in other words, boreal forests in the northern hemisphere may now soak up less of the heat-trapping gas than they give off. The bulk of the released CO2 comes not from the burning trees, but from what is in the ground. "Most of what fuels a boreal fire is plant litter, moss and organic matter in surface soils," said Merritt Turetsky, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and lead author of the study. The findings are worrisome, he said, because about half of the world’s soil carbon is trapped in northern permafrost and peatlands. "This is carbon that has accumulated in ecosystems a little bit at a time for thousands of years, but is being released very rapidly." While the study, published in Nature Geoscience, focused on Alaska’s 18.5 million hectares (45 million acres) of forests, its conclusions likely apply to huge expanses of wilderness in Canada, Siberia and northern Europe as well.
Posted 9 December 2010; 1:40:49 AM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 6 December 2010) -- John Baird, the federal environment minister, on Dec. 6 laid out the federal government’s position on boundaries for a proposed national marine conservation area around Lancaster Sound. Ottawa’s boundary proposal would protect about 44,500 square kilometres of marine territory that encompasses most of Lancaster Sound and all the waters surround Bylot Island, including Eclipse Sound. It’s part of a negotiation process in which the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the federal government would enter into talks about how and when a national marine conservation area will be created in Lancaster Sound. But the completion date for the project still appears to be several years away: a steering committee that would produce a feasibility study on such a protected area has yet to be created. “I welcome the honourable minister’s announcement as an indication that all parties are committed to advancing on the feasibility study. Beyond boundary proposals, QIA is eager to establish the project steering committee and complete discussions on how the feasibility process will unfold,” Okalik Eegeesiak, the president of Qikiqtani Inuit Association said in a statement issued Dec. 6. She also said QIA “is setting its sights on a longer term vision for Lancaster Sound,” through the Inuit impact and benefits agreement that must be negotiated before the conservation area can be created.
Posted 6 December 2010; 9:41:22 PM. Permalink
(Libby Casey, APRN, 2 December 2010) -- Washington DC - The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge turns 50 on Monday, and conservationists are using the anniversary to call for stronger protections. They want President Obama to declare “monument status” for the Refuge – a move that would beef up its protections without having to get congressional approval. It wouldn’t carry the same weight as “wilderness status,” but would block most forms of development. The President of the Wilderness Society, Bill Meadows, says getting the President to designate it a monument area has a better chance than being protected by Congress. With the House shifting to Republican control in the New Year, there’s zero likelihood of seeing Congress pass stronger protections in the next two years, a reality Meadows admits. Thursday morning, outside the U.S. Capitol Building, Refuge advocates gathered to mark the approaching anniversary, including Sarah James with the Gwich’in Steering Committee, who traveled from Arctic Village. James has been working to protect the Refuge for decades and has appeared at dozens of similar events, but says she new motivation after the April BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Last month 25 Senators sent a letter to President Obama calling for stepped-up protection. More than 50 House members signed on to a similar letter this fall, including Washington State Congressman Jay Inslee. He says the most viable way to boost protection is through the White House.
Posted 3 December 2010; 4:39:58 PM. Permalink
(Dan Joling/Anchorage Daily News, 3 December 2010) -- The federal government on Friday proposed listing two seals that depend on sea ice as threatened species because of the projected loss of ice from climate warming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will seek to list ringed seals found in the Arctic Basin and the North Atlantic and two populations of bearded seals in the Pacific Ocean as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Ringed seals are the main prey of polar bears, which were listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008. For ringed seals, the proposed listing also cites the threat of reduced snow cover. NOAA climate models were used to predict future sea ice conditions. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the seals in 2008 and later sued to force a decision on additional protections. "We're pleased that NOAA is following the science and the law in recognizing the reality of what global warming is doing to the Arctic and its species," said Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. ... Alaska's northern waters have four species of ice seals.
Posted 3 December 2010; 2:49:17 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 3 November 2010) -- The water level in Gígja river has been rising. Early this morning, the level was at 4.8 meters and the flow was 1,650 cubic meters last night. This compares with 3.8 meters and 630 cubic meters yesterday morning. According to mbl.is, Gunnar Sigurdsson from the Icelandic Meteorological Office said last night that the river had risen to its maximum level at the bridge over the river. Yesterday he went to the source of the river up at the glacier and said that it looked much different than the previous day. Many lagoons and ponds had formed by the end of the glacier in a 24 hours time period. Sigurdsson said that some of the water from Grímsvötn volcano had flowed into the Súla River. However, the flow in Súla is very limited. No earthquake activity has been recorded in Grímsvötn in the last 24 hours.
Posted 3 November 2010; 1:08:38 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 1 November 2010) -- Geophysicist Páll Einarsson says that all measurements indicate that the flood in Grímsvötn will be similar to the one in 2004. As the flood develops, the probability of an eruption will be high. Einarsson says that there is no reason to fear the flood or the eruption, ruv.is reports. The flood was preceded by some earthquakes in Vatnajökull over past few days and scientists believe that water began flowing slowly from the crater on Thursday and has progressed since then. Einarsson says that the storm has rendered the equipment not as sensitive as it should have been when measuring the earthquakes. He says that this flood will not be among the biggest in history, but similar to the one in 2004. In 2004 the flood peaked after five days and Einarsson says it is highly probable that an eruption will start then, just as happened in 2004. The conditions in Grímsvötn are exactly the same. The eruption in 2004 was small and harmless. This time should be no different.
Posted 1 November 2010; 2:07:38 PM. Permalink
(Jane George/Nunatsiaq News, 26 October 2010) -- Over the course of the past 50 million years, a forest of towering trees thrived on Nunavut’s Axel Heiberg island, then died back and was buried under the sandy soil of the Geodetic Hills. That is, until 1985, when a Canadian Geographical Survey team spotted the rows of ancient mummified trunks which had been swept clean by erosion. Since then, these unique remnants of a much warmer polar past have remained unprotected from visitors. But now Nunavut is looking at how best to protect the fossil forest, which lies outside the borders of Quttinirpaaq national park on Ellesmere Island, possibly by setting up a territorial park. The park even has a name: Napaaqtulik, where there are trees. Nunavut’s environment minister Daniel Shewchuk told the Nunavut legislature’s committee of the whole on Oct. 25 that his department is now studying whether to make the fossil forest into a park. But it could take at least 10 more years before the fossil forest becomes a territorial park.
Posted 27 October 2010; 5:51:38 PM. Permalink
(Pierre-Henry Deshayes/AFP, 17 October 2010) -- MURMANSK, Russia - An electronic sign along a busy street posts the outside temperature, the wind strength -- and the radioactivity level. Welcome to Russia's Kola Peninsula, a region that still bears the scars of its dubious past as the Soviet Union's "nuclear dump". When the USSR imploded, the northwestern Russian peninsula was left with ageing nuclear submarines and spent nuclear fuel abandoned in not always airtight containers. The Soviet breakdown posed a significant threat to the nearby fish-filled Barents Sea, as well as flourishing opportunities for traffickers of nuclear materials. Two decades and just as many billion dollars later, the "dump" looks a bit less shabby, thanks to funds supplied mostly by the West. "What is positive, or should I say, least negative, is that the situation is under control when it comes to nuclear safety," said Sergei Zhavoronkin of the region's public council for the safe use of nuclear energy. "It has not always been the case." A common practice until the mid-1980s, dumping radioactive waste into the sea is a thing of the past, and the 100 or so submarines once rusting around the peninsula have now almost all been disposed of. ... According to Valery Panteleyev, who leads public authority SevRao that is in charge of cleaning up the peninsula, a first batch of containers filled with fuel rods was shipped to the Mayak waste treatment plant in the Urals in June. "That is the easy part," said Koudrik, adding that while authorities may be able to move the containers, they "still don't know how to empty the tanks." Another problem is a support vessel for icebreakers that has been sitting in Murmansk for 20 years waiting for a way to be found for its load of often broken radioactive fuel tubes to be extracted and disposed of. The floating wreck, Lepse, was built in 1936 and is threatening to sink. Although Russian authorities pledged transparency about the region's nuclear issues, foreign journalists are denied access to a number of sites. In Murmansk, meanwhile, the radio still informs listeners to the weather updates of the level of radioactivity, and at the Russian-Norwegian border vehicles are scanned to detect any illegal exit of nuclear material.
Posted 17 October 2010; 4:28:45 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/FPB Arctic, 11 October 2010) -- On September 17, the Canadian Ice Service began tracking the 280-square kilometer ice island which fractured off of Petermann Glacier in western Greenland in early August, the Montreal Gazette reports. The ice floe, or more technically, the large tabular (meaning flat-topped) iceberg, split into two after ramming into Joe Island, where the Petermann Fjord meets the Nares Strait, on September 9. The Canadian Ice Service placed the monitor on the surface of PII-A, the smaller of the two halves of the ice island, which is now adrift off the coast of Ellesmere Island. The agency remarked, “Once the ice island exits Nares Strait and drifts into Baffin Bay and into areas where shipping activities take place, it could become a hazard to maritime interests.” You can monitor the movement of PII-A here. Currently, the ice floe is moving approximately 40 kilometers a day.
Posted 12 October 2010; 3:01:11 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters via FoxBusiness, 1 October 2010) -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A planned study of possible new wilderness protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has sparked a furor in Alaska, where energy companies have long dreamed of tapping oil reserves beneath its vast coastal plain home to herds of migrating animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort announced this week is part of a sweeping review of a land-management plan for what is the second-largest national wildlife refuge in the United States. The agency stresses that its work is just starting and that a formal draft is not expected until next year. But the oil industry and its political allies regard it as a prelude to an attempt to keep the refuge off-limits to energy production for good by formally declaring its remote coastal tundra as wilderness. "Alaska will not allow the federal government to lock up more land without a fight," Governor Sean Parnell said this week. The Alaska Wilderness League, for its part, accuses oil companies of trying to destroy a refuge that represents the only place on Alaska's North Slope that is legislatively closed to development. "The Arctic Refuge is one of the last true wilderness areas left in the United States — some places are just too special to sacrifice to oil and gas development," said Cindy Shogan, the league's executive director. Established 50 years ago in the northeast corner of Alaska, ANWR occupies 19.3 million acres, stretching from saltwater marshes of the Beaufort Sea on its northern edge to the spruce, birch and aspen forests in the Brooks Range's southern foothills. Its wilderness plan was last revised in 1988, eight years after Congress expanded the refuge to its current size and effectively closed all of it to energy development.
Posted 3 October 2010; 8:44:50 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 14 September 2010) -- SAN FRANCISCO, California - From foxes to whales to walruses to plankton, Arctic species are being pushed toward extinction by rapid climate change, finds a new report by two conservation groups. In a report released Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International document the situations of 17 Arctic animals trying to survive the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. "The polar bear is the best-known victim of rapid melting in the Arctic, but if we don't slash greenhouse pollution, many more creatures will follow it down the path to extinction," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director and lead author of the report, "Extinction: It's Not Just for Polar Bears." Most of the 17 imperiled species are mammals - the Arctic fox, polar bear, caribou or reindeer, muskox, and Pacific walrus, as well as four whales - gray, beluga, bowhead and narwhal. Four ice seals are also at risk — the ringed, bearded, harp and ribbon seals. The report names three seabirds in jeopardy — the Kittlitz's murrelet, spectacled eider and ivory gull; and also finds the sea butterfly, a species of plankton, to be at risk of extinction. The minimum extent of Arctic sea is is smaller than ever, satellite data shows. Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This August, ice extent for the month was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007.
Posted 22 September 2010; 4:20:54 PM. Permalink
(The Voice of Russia, 21 September 2010) -- Two more national parks and three natural reserves are expected to soon emerge in the Arctic. Particularly referring to the Bear Islands conservation on an archipelago in Yakutia, Russian Natural Recourses and Ecology Minister Yuri Trutnev said that new specially protected areas are planned to be established on the Chukotka Peninsula and in the Taimyr region. At present, Russia’s Arctic territories comprise ten reservations, one national park and two federal wildlife sanctuaries.
Posted 21 September 2010; 9:50:02 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 19 September 2010) -- FAIRBANKS - The projected warming of the planet could give Fairbanks
the same weather as midwest Canada, according to a University of Alaska
Fairbanks professor. Rich Boone, an ecosystem ecologist at the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, used the climate around Saskatoon, Canada, as an example of what might be in store for Alaska's Interior, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Fairbanks faces a roughly 11-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2100 if moderate climate-change models are used, Boone said during a talk Wednesday. If that happens, the Interior no longer will be characterized by permafrost and boreal forests, he said. "That's very realistic," Boone said. "We'd be in a zone that would potentially be prairie." Models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict worldwide temperatures will increase by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit during the next century. Arctic regions have been warming at roughly twice the rate of other parts of the globe, Boone said. Based on indicators that include ice cores, tree rings and other data, Boone said the only other known period of such rapid change was the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. ADVERTISEMENT Earth's climate has been remarkably stable during the past 1,000 years, he said, allowing humans to develop reliable agriculture and the civilization that accompanies it. Just after the ice age, "We were stone-age people, and there really wasn't a lot to lose," he said. Boone said some climate change forecasts oversimplify the problem as a basic issue of growing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Methane, cloud cover and sunspots also appear to be contributing to warming or cooling, he said. He believes the overall trend is toward a warming planet, and carbon dioxide appears to be the main culprit. "The fact is, the stuff we've pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is going to continue to have a warming effect for thousands of years," Boone said.
Posted 19 September 2010; 6:20:04 PM. Permalink
(QMI Agency via Toronto Sun, 12 September 2010) -- A gigantic ice island floating in Arctic waters between Greenland and Canada has split in two. Satellite images show that the ice island broke in two after repeatedly smashing into Joe Island, a small rocky outcrop in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, CNN reports. "In the satellite imagery, you can hardly see the island because it's so much smaller than the ice island, but it's there; it's a piece of rock," Dr. Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, told CNN. The ice island hit Joe Island last week, and since then, combined forces of ocean currents and strong winds have weakened its structure. "The forces of the ocean currents and the winds wiggling it on and off the island were too much," Muenchow told CNN. The ice island was created Aug. 4 when it broke off the floating ice shelf of the Petermann Glacier on Greenland's northwest coast. It moved into the Nares Strait in early September. The original ice formation was estimated to be more than 250 square km in size — four times the size of Manhattan — one of the largest icebergs ever formed. It was wedge-shaped, about 28 km long and about 15 km at its widest point. The larger piece now is about 152 square km and the smaller piece is about 84 square km, Muenchow said.
Posted 12 September 2010; 10:54:08 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 24 August 2010) -- A large parcel of ice has fractured from a massive ice shelf on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, marking the third known case of Arctic ice loss this summer alone. The chunk of ice, which scientists estimate is roughly the size of Bermuda, broke away from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the island's northern coast around Aug. 18, according to NASA satellite imagery. At 40 metres thick, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is estimated to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, jutting off the island like an extension of the land. "The cracks are going right to the mainland, basically, right to Ellesmere Island," John England, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences with the University of Alberta, told CBC News on Tuesday. "So, in the core of the ice shelf itself, the fracturing is occurring. "I think that's really quite significant, that it's like the most resistant and most tenacious part of the ice shelf is now being dismantled." Giant tracts of Arctic ice have been calving off ancient glaciers and ice shelves in recent weeks.
Posted 28 August 2010; 11:19:50 PM. Permalink
(Matt Cole/BBC News, 22 August 2010) -- It has been a long hard year for those living beneath the crater of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland. When the volcano erupted in March, air passengers faced chaos as their planes were grounded amid fears that the ash, thrown high into the atmosphere, would damage aircraft. But after little more than two weeks, and a safety all-clear, life started returning to normal for airlines and their customers. The people of Iceland living near the eruption site were not so lucky. The region of south Iceland where Eyjafjallajokull is situated has a significant farming industry. Floods, caused by lava melting glacial ice, swept down the side of the volcano and ruined farmland. Sixty hectares of the property Poula Kristin Buch farms with her husband was wiped away by the water. "When the flood came over our land, 10 years of our work just went away in a second. "Our crops were destroyed and it will take two years to get our fields ploughed properly again and ready for planting," she added. ... On her return, Poula and her husband, Sigurdur Thorhallsson, found their whole property covered in ash. They were not alone: all life in the region was smothered by a thick grey and black carpet of choking, clogging dust. Weeks of hard work has cleared most of the ash, but the dust has left a legacy, Ms Bush says. All her cattle have had to spend the summer in a barn. Sharp ash particles, harmful to cows' teeth, lie hidden in the grass, making it impossible to put the animals out to pasture. Iceland's government is giving financial help to farmers. But the emotional cost of the damage to farms, where some have toiled their whole lives, is not something on which a price can be put. ... But now, quite literally from the ashes, there is hope of a dramatic reversal of fortune for the tourism industry. After scaring them away, Eyjafjallajokull is now drawing growing numbers of tourists to its still-settling landscape. Mr Hauksson says that the volcano has become an "attraction".
Posted 22 August 2010; 11:55:23 AM. Permalink
(University of Delaware press release, 6 August 2010) -- A University of Delaware researcher reports that an "ice island" four times the size of Manhattan has calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier. The last time the Arctic lost such a large chunk of ice was in 1962. "In the early morning hours of August 5, 2010, an ice island four times the size of Manhattan was born in northern Greenland," said Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. Muenchow's research in Nares Strait, between Greenland and Canada, is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Satellite imagery of this remote area at 81 degrees N latitude and 61 degrees W longitude, about 620 miles [1,000 km] south of the North Pole, reveals that Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 43-mile long [70 km] floating ice-shelf. Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service discovered the ice island within hours after NASA's MODIS-Aqua satellite took the data on Aug. 5, at 8:40 UTC (4:40 EDT), Muenchow said. These raw data were downloaded, processed, and analyzed at the University of Delaware in near real-time as part of Muenchow's NSF research. Petermann Glacier, the parent of the new ice island, is one of the two largest remaining glaciers in Greenland that terminate in floating shelves. The glacier connects the great Greenland ice sheet directly with the ocean. The new ice island has an area of at least 100 square miles and a thickness up to half the height of the Empire State Building. ... The island will enter Nares Strait, a deep waterway between northern Greenland and Canada where, since 2003, a University of Delaware ocean and ice observing array has been maintained by Muenchow with collaborators in Oregon (Prof. Kelly Falkner), British Columbia (Prof. Humfrey Melling), and England (Prof. Helen Johnson).
Posted 8 August 2010; 10:58:48 PM. Permalink
(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics press release via EurekAlert! 2 August 2010) -- Sky viewers might get to enjoy some spectacular Northern Lights, or aurorae, tomorrow. After a long slumber, the Sun is waking up. Early Sunday morning, the Sun's surface erupted and blasted tons of plasma (ionized atoms) into interplanetary space. That plasma is headed our way, and when it arrives, it could create a spectacular light show. "This eruption is directed right at us, and is expected to get here early in the day on August 4th," said astronomer Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time." The eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was caught on camera by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) — a spacecraft that launched in February. SDO provides better-than-HD quality views of the Sun at a variety of wavelengths. "We got a beautiful view of this eruption," said Golub. "And there might be more beautiful views to come, if it triggers aurorae." When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, it interacts with our planet's magnetic field, potentially creating a geomagnetic storm. Solar particles stream down the field lines toward Earth's poles. Those particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, which then glow like miniature neon signs. Aurorae normally are visible only at high latitudes. However, during a geomagnetic storm aurorae can light up the sky at lower latitudes. Sky watchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north on the evening of August 3rd/4th for rippling "curtains" of green and red light. The Sun goes through a regular activity cycle about 11 years long on average. The last solar maximum occurred in 2001. Its latest minimum was particularly weak and long lasting. This eruption is one of the first signs that the Sun is waking up and heading toward another maximum.
Posted 2 August 2010; 2:11:19 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 2 August 2010) -- Changing weather patterns are wreaking havoc on northern roads, forcing engineers to adapt to new conditions, Yukon officials say. Over the summer, washouts have closed sections of the Dempster and Taylor highways, and melting permafrost has made for rough driving on parts of the Alaska Highway. The problem is that unusually warm weather accelerates melting and destabilizes road beds, says Yukon transportation engineer Paul Murchison. That means some roads need resurfacing every three years. "We have melting that results in cracks in the road surface," says Murchison. "Rainfall events that would normally flow off the road surface then flow into these cracks. I think it's safe to say in the last couple of years we're seen more intense storm events." Murchison is working with university researchers from Quebec and Alaska to gather data from test sites along the Alaska Highway. The goal is to come up with ways to protect the frozen ground. Yukon's assistant deputy minister for transportation, Allan Nixon, says engineers are considering different types of material and design approaches in road construction. Last year, the territory spent $1.5 million on repairing washouts.
Posted 2 August 2010; 1:41:41 PM. Permalink
(Chris Freiberg/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 1 August 2010) -- FAIRBANKS - The Senate Commerce Committee last week approved several provisions to a bill last week that Sen. Mark Begich says will promote “responsible resource development” in the Arctic. The provisions are part of the Securing Health for Oceans Resource and Environment Act, or SHORE. Provisions introduced by Begich include authorizing the Coast Guard to increase preparedness in case of an oil spill in Beaufort and Chukchi Sea and increasing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research into the effects of an oil spill in Arctic waters. Begich, a Democrat, also proposed establishing an Arctic Regional Citizens Advisory Council that will provide a greater local participation in oil development. The council is based on similar groups established in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet after the 1986 Exxon Valdez disaster, according to the senator’s office. “The SHORE Act takes a big step forward in the ability of federal and private entities to prevent and respond to oil spills,” Begich said in a statement. “It also finally recognizes the steps we need to take now in the Arctic to ensure responsible oil and gas development off Alaska’s northern coast, including increased citizen participation early in the development process to help avoid the endless lawsuits that have halted Arctic development in recent years."
Posted 1 August 2010; 11:06:17 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 9 July 2010) -- Russian scientists have released some 200,000 king crab brood off the coast of the Kola Peninsula. "It can only be described as voodoo and sabotage," says Igor Pakholkov, deputy director of a Murmansk based fishing company. The release of near 200,000 small King Crabs happend earlier this summer from the marine research station at Dalniye Zelentsy east of Murmansk on the coast of the Kola Peninsula. It is the first time Russia release artificially reared king crab brood in such great numbers. The red king crab (or Kamchatka crab) was first introduced to the Barents Sea from Russia’s Far East in the 60-ties. The initiative of scientific institutions to enhance the population of red king crab in the waters of the Barents Sea can only be described as voodoo and sabotage, says Igor Pakholkov in an interview with Regnum. Pakholkov is deputy director and fleet manager of Murmansk fishing company Zolotaya Rybka. The company is a member of the coastal fishery association and focused on coastal Kamchatka crab hunting. The king crab has no natural enemies in the Barents Sea and the stock has increased rapidly since the late 80-ties. In the early 90-ties the king crab started to appear in the fjords of Eastern Finnmark in Norway. Since then, the population has grown immensely. Some estimates say there are more than 20 million in the Barents Sea. Many environmentalists and scientists say the species negatively alters the sea’s natural biodiversity. The consequence of the king crab explosion may be that native species disappear. Igor Pakholkov says the king crab is not a natural inhabitant of the northern seas, and they violate the natural balance in the marine ecosystem. They destroy the traditional fish species, he says. "There is only one way to deal with the king crab, that is, allowing free fishing," Pakholov says in the interview with Regnum.
Posted 11 July 2010; 11:29:20 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 5 July 2010) -- Toxic waste chemicals such as DDT and arsenic are set to be removed from a former military site within Ivvavik National Park in northern Yukon. The chemicals have been in the soil since the 1960s, when a Distant Early Warning Line station existed for a few years in a small part of what is now the national park. "There are a number of contaminants, ranging from arsenic and antimony; there's also DDT, PCBs, lead and fuel contamination," Nelson Perry, an ecosystems scientist with Parks Canada in Inuvik, N.W.T., told CBC News. Ivvavik National Park was established in 1984 under the Inuvialuit land claim, spanning 10,000 square kilometres of mostly undisturbed land. About seven years ago, the Inuvialuit asked the federal government to clean up the former site from the DEW Line of Cold War arctic radar installations. The station was in their traditional hunting grounds. Consultations have wrapped up and work is about to begin, with $7 million in federal funding. "Most of the contamination is within the soil, below the vegetation," Perry said. "So it's not visible, but it is there. That will be excavated." Cleanup workers will dig tainted soil from sites within about one square kilometre, with the waste being transported away by barge. Workers will also remove old barrels and structures from the DEW Line site. What will remain are some modern facilities, such as a radar system used by the Canadian Forces.
Posted 7 July 2010; 2:19:32 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Canwest News Service via Canada.com, 13 June 2010) -- Arctic Ocean ice cover retreated faster last month than in any previous May since satellite monitoring began more than 30 years ago, the latest sign that the polar region could be headed for another record-setting meltdown by summer’s end. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center had already warned earlier this spring that low ice volume — the result of repeated losses of thick, multi-year ice over the past decade — meant this past winter’s ice-extent recovery was superficial, due mainly to a fragile fringe of new ice that would be vulnerable to rapid deterioration once warmer temperatures set in. And, driven by unusually hot weather in recent weeks above the Arctic Circle, the polar ice is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, reducing overall ice extent to less than that recorded in May 2007 — the year when a record-setting retreat by mid-September alarmed climatologists and northern governments. The centre reported that across much of the Arctic, temperatures were two to five degrees Celsius above average last month. “In May, Arctic air temperatures remained above average, and sea ice extent declined at a rapid pace,” the Colorado-based centre said in its June 8 report. The centre pegged the retreat at an average of 68,000 square kilometres a day, noting that “this rate of loss is the highest for the month of May during the satellite record.”
Posted 13 June 2010; 1:04:37 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 7 June 2010) -- PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY - Eurasia's highest volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East has shown again signs of intensified activity throwing clouds of smoke and ash into the air to a height of 2.5 kilometers. The Klyuchevskoy, which lies 220 miles north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world and reaches an altitude of 15,584 feet. It erupts about every 2-3 years. Local seismologists said on Monday there was no immediate threat to the residents or tourists in the area, but issued an ash emission warning for air traffic in the vicinity of the volcano. The Klyuchevskoy started a new active cycle with an eruption in August 2009. There are more than 150 volcanoes on Kamchatka, 29 of them active. Another volcano in the area, the Bezymyanny, erupted on May 31, sending clouds of ash to the height of 10 kilometers for about 20 minutes.
Posted 7 June 2010; 1:05:16 AM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 25 May 2010) -- Scientists are raising the alert level for Cleveland Volcano in Alaska's Aleutian chain after satellite data has indicated thermal anomalies. The Alaska Volcano Observatory today raised the level to advisory status. There is no real-time seismic network at the volcano. Scientists say unrest there is frequent, and short-lived explosions with ash plumes up to 20,000 feet can occur without warning and may not be detected by satellites. Cleveland is about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, on a remote and uninhabited island in the Aleutians chain. The observatory says the last significant eruption of the 5,676-foot volcano began in February 2001 and eventually produced a lava flow that reached the ocean. There were minor eruptions in January, June and October 2009.
Posted 26 May 2010; 9:57:25 PM. Permalink