(Jacqueline Klimas/Navy Times, 24 March 2012) -- The Defense Department will help bolster the Coast Guard’s presence in the Arctic, the commander of U.S. Northern Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Army Gen. Charles Jacoby and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp signed a white paper March 13 that addresses capability gaps in infrastructure, communications, domain awareness and presence in the Arctic. “Traffic has already increased over 61 percent in the Arctic since 2008,” Jacoby said at the March 13 hearing. “Security interests follow closely behind economic interests, and we will be participating in a number of venues to help lead that for the Department of Defense.” Rising global temperatures and melting sea ice are opening the Arctic as a new frontier for research, travel and oil drilling — and creating more area for the Coast Guard to patrol. To keep up, the Coast Guard is asking for $8 million in the fiscal 2013 budget to begin procurement of a new large icebreaker. Such a ship could cost $1 billion. Neither of the U.S.’s two heavy-duty Polar-class icebreakers is in service. The Polar Star is awaiting a $57 million upgrade set to be finished in December. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, has been docked in Seattle since 2010 with engine issues. The medium-duty polar icebreaker Healy is designed for research and cannot cut through the thickest ice. As countries like Russia and even China grow their icebreaker fleet, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, emphasized how critical it is for the U.S. to keep up.
Posted 24 March 2012; 4:53:19 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 22 March 2012) -- North America's wonky winter forced its different bird populations to flock much farther afield this year as Arctic species moved south and southern watefowl showed up in ice-free Canada much earlier in the year. Snowy owls from the Arctic and tundra swans, which normally winter in the southern U.S., as far south as Florida, were among the birds reported in unusually high numbers in Canada during this year's annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Four times as many snowy owls and nearly 17 times more tundra swans were reported by Canadian participants this year than last year, said Bird Studies Canada this week. The group partners with the U.S.-based Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society of the U.S. to coordinate the annual count, which ran across Canada and the U.S. from Feb. 17 to 20. Scientists think the snowy owls moved further south than usual this winter due to a shortage of food such as lemmings. They were spotted in much greater number in the central U.S. plains and the Pacific Northwest as well. Meanwhile, the jump in waterfowl such as tundra swans, canvasbacks, redheads and sandhill cranes was likely due to the warm winter weather and lack of ice, Bird Studies Canada said. Many of these species migrate to the Arctic area for summer breeding but don't usually head there until much later in the year.
Posted 24 March 2012; 11:36:28 AM. Permalink