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Arctic Daily Update: May 20, 2013

Today's Events

The Senate will consider legislation to reauthorize farm, agriculture and conservation programs and a judicial nomination.  The house will consider legislation under suspension of the rules.  

Coast Guard Hearing on the Grounding of the Kulluk, (May 20, 2013) (Anchorage, Alaska).The Coast Guard will hold a formal marine casualty investigation hearing.  Marine casualty investigations are held to conduct investigations following marine casualties to determine the causal and contributing factors that led to the incident. This allows the Coast Guard to potentially save lives and protect the environment in the future by identifying what went wrong and how it can be avoided in the future.

Media
 


Alaska's Pavlof Volcano Continues to Erupt. Pavlof Volcano continues to erupt on the Alaska Peninsula, about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports a plume of steam, gas and ash reached up to 22,000 feet Sunday and was visible on satellite images drifting southeast over the north Pacific. Anchorage Daily News

Trace Volcano Ash Reaches Small Alaska City. Alaska's Pavlof Volcano sent ash and steam skyward Sunday but not enough to raise the aviation threat for international air carriers. A satellite at 12:40 a.m. measured an ash cloud at 19,500 feet, just below the 20,000-foot threshold considered to be a major threat to trans-continental aircraft. The aviation warning level remained at code orange, a step below red, the highest of the four levels, said geologist Kristi Wallace of the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Anchorage Daily News

Coast Guard Seal Coast Guard to Take Testimony on Shell Drill Barge Grounding. The Coast Guard will kick off hearings Monday on how a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill barge used for Arctic Ocean exploratory drilling ended up aground off a remote Alaska island. The Kulluk was under tow and bound from the Aleutian Islands' Dutch Harbor to a Seattle shipyard when it ran into rough Gulf of Alaska water. It broke from its towing vessel, and after four days of futile attempted hookups, ran aground New Year's Eve in shallow water off Sitkalidak Island, near Kodiak Island. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Where Have All the Denali Wolves Gone. The lowest count of wolves in Denali National Park and Preserve in 26 years is causing alarm among wildlife advocates who argue that elimination of a no-trapping zone in 2010 may be costing the park one of its prized attractions. Park researchers tallied just 49 wolves in this year's spring count, done between February and April. While the wolf numbers fluctuate, researchers counted 70 just a year earlier. Before this year, the lowest recent count was 59 in 2010. The highest was 111 in 1991, according to the park service. Anchorage Daily News

Judge to Decide Alaska Native Religious Defense in Fishing Trials. With salmon beginning their annual migration back from the sea into Alaska waterways, nearly two dozen fisherman from Western Alaska return to a Bethel courtroom Monday, still caught up in a legal net that entangled them last summer. The Alaska Native fisherman say they had a religious right to be on the water with their nets, and a judge must now decide whether they can use that argument as a defense at trial. This new posture has been backed by passionate supporters and become increasingly politicized as Alaska Natives continue to define their relationship with the state of Alaska. Alaska Dispatch 

Spring in Barrow: Round-the-Clock Daylight and Dangerous Cracks in Sea Ice. On the 5-mile snowmachine ride up to Point Barrow, we saw several fresh polar bear tracks the size of dinner plates, a pile of whalebones from last year, and a 3-foot-wide crack in the sea ice that could swallow a sled. The crack was created when an ice floe in open water crashed into shore-fast ice. It was masked in a snowdrift, and our guide Brower Frantz nearly fell into it. Alaska Dispatch

State Announces Plan to Assess Oil, Gas at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Alaska is proposing a plan aimed at determining the true oil and gas potential in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The plan was announced Monday by Gov. Sean Parnell and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan. Parnell says the U.S. Department of Interior hasn't indicated that it will address oil and gas issues in a new planning document for the refuge so Alaska is stepping up. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

polar bear matt Wildlife Advocates Want More Polar Bear Protections. While nobody thinks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can slow or stop global warming, wildlife conservation advocates say the agency must do more to try and save polar bears from extinction. The great Arctic predators have become a poster child for the impacts of global warming, but five years after they were put on the Endangered Species List, the USFWS has not developed a recovery plan. Summit County Voice

Research into Carbon Storage in Arctic Tundra Reveals Unexpected Insight Into Ecosystem Resiliency. When UC Santa Barbara doctoral student Seeta Sistla and her adviser, environmental studies professor Josh Schimel, went north not long ago to study how long-term warming in the Arctic affects carbon storage, they had made certain assumptions. "We expected that because of the long-term warming, we would have lost carbon stored in the soil to the atmosphere," said Schimel. The gradual warming, he explained, would accelerate decomposition on the upper layers of what would have previously been frozen or near-frozen earth, releasing the greenhouse gas into the air. Because high latitudes contain nearly half of all global soil carbon in their ancient permafrost - permanently frozen soil - even a few degrees' rise in temperature could be enough to release massive quantities, turning a carbon repository into a carbon emitter. Environmental Research Web

Russia and the Arctic Ocean in the Next Century. Modern geopolitics in the West has always targeted Russia since the famous thesis of Halford Mackinder. Russia is seen of course as an evil empire, also as the Heartland of Eurasia, heir of the Mongols, enjoying so the biggest and most strategic position on earth. Twice invaded and destroyed by the troops of Napoleon and Hitler, Russia is still considered the land of Asiatic invaders! As stated once Mr Kozyrev, geopolitics replace ideology. Pravda

New Political Battle Lines Emerge in Arctic: Scharper. In the summer of 2010, while I was visiting an ecological research station near Tobermory, Ont., the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil rig was gushing out of control approximately 1,500 miles due south in the Gulf of Mexico. Gazing across the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, I wondered how I would feel if a collapsed oil rig were fouling this clear, remarkably beautiful expanse of the Great Lakes. I winced internally imagining the waters and arresting vistas that had become so meaningful to me becoming blackened by such a tragedy. The Star

Arctic Map Deciding the Future of the Arctic [Opinion]. One only need study the history of the Northwest Passage - the formerly consistently frozen channel north of North America - to better understand the effects of global warming on the Arctic.

Painstakingly navigated for the first time over a three-year span at the beginning of the last century by Roald Amundsen, today - 110 years later - it is regularly crossed by commercial vessels and even cruise ships.

That's because the melting of sea ice has opened a region long protected by its harsh environment. In the process, it has given new significance to the Arctic Council, an organization comprised of the eight arctic nations - Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States - indigenous groups and observer organizations. New York Times

Arctic Atmospheric Research Station Gets Funding to Stay Alive. An Arctic research station that had been crippled by funding cuts, sparking loud protests among scientists, is getting an injection of money to keep it alive for the next five years. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut, will receive a $5-million grant over a maximum of five years, the Harper government announced Friday. Six other climate-related and mostly northern research projects will get similar grants. The Toronto Star

Analysis and Politics Behind Arctic Council's Meeting. China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Italy have all been admitted as permanent observer states to the Arctic Council, while the European Union will have to wait. Though technically admitted, it still must work out its differences with Canada. Countries are admitted as permanent observer states by consensus between the eight member states and six permanent participants. A consensus was not yet completely reached on the EU's application because of Canada's objection to the organization's ban on the import of seal furs, which has disproportionately harmed indigenous livelihoods in northern Canada. The Arctic Council's Kiruna Declaration welcome the new permanent observer states under the section, "Strengthening the Arctic Council." Alaska Dispatch

No Open Water Makes for Late Spring Whaling. Poor weather and lack of open water have pushed spring whaling back for most crews on the Arctic Slope. Western crews are having some success as the spring season gets underway and whalers seek to fulfill their strike quotas and land bowhead migrating north for their summer season in the Arctic. The St. Lawrence Island community of Savoonga has landed four whales and lost two. Point Hope and Gambell have also started their spring season. The Arctic Sounder

Legislative Action

No formal legislative action was taken on Arctic legislation yesterday.

Future Events

   

Private Sector Transportation, Infrastructure, Assets, Response, Capacity, and Development in the Arctic, May 30, 2012, Seattle, WA. A recently-held Arctic transportation workshop in Iceland highlighted the need to better understand private sector transportation infrastructure and assets, recognizing industry's role in the responsible development of resources, response and supportive infrastructure. As a follow-up to its efforts to inventory and map Arctic transportation infrastructure, the Institute of the North is hosting a workshop at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, Washington that focuses on three critical areas: private sector assets and infrastructure in the Arctic, staging areas outside the Arctic that support Northern development, and vessels and technology that are difficult to map but need to be measured for future decision-making. Participants include industry representatives, technical experts, researchers, Coast Guard and other response personnel.

10th International Symposium on Cold Regions Development (ISCORD 2013) (June 2-5, 2013) (Anchorage, Alaska) The International Association for Cold Regions Development Studies (IACORDS) and the Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will host a conference on "Planning for Sustainable Cold Regions." Special Keynote Sessions each day include "Bridging the Gap Between Climate Change Science and Engineering Practice"; "The Challenges of the Debris from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan"; and "Energy in Alaska - Current and Future Projects."

AGU Science Policy Conference, June 24-26, 2013. (Washington, DC)   AGU logo

Hundreds of Earth and space scientists, students, policymakers, and industry professionals will discuss key Earth and space science topics that address challenges to our economy, national security, environment, and public safety. This meeting will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers' decisions related to energy, natural hazards, technology and infrastructure, climate, oceans, and the Arctic (see 6/25 forum titled "US Government Investment in Arctic Change Research"). The event is hosted by American Geophysical Union (AGU), a Washington, D. C.-based international nonprofit scientific association.

5th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and icedimArctic Maritime Operations, July 16-18, 2013 (Washington, D.C.). The U.S. National/Naval Ice Center (NIC) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) co-host this follow-on symposium to address the changing state of Arctic sea ice and associated environmental conditions vis-a-vis emerging or expected naval, maritime, and associated activities and operations in the region. Invited speakers include nationally and internationally recognized experts on Arctic observations, climate change, and maritime operations.

7th International Workshop on Ice Drilling Technology (September 9-13, 2013) (Madison, WI). The event is sponsored by the Ice Drilling Program Office- Ice Drilling Design and Operations (IDPO-­-IDDO), International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS), International Glaciological Society (IGS). Following in the footsteps of the sixprevious ice drilling technology workshops held between 1974 and 2006, the Seventh International Workship on Ice Drilling Technology will take a comprehensive look a the latest innovations in ice drilling technology, including ice coring, borehole logging, subglacial sampling, core logging and handling, and field logistics.

Arctic Exchange (September 16-17, 2013) (Stockholm). The Exchange brings an evolutionary concept in networking and business information delivery - one that is designed to meet specific business objectives during  two days for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic communities addressing key issues such as sustainable business development and regional protection. As more and more data has confirmed that the Arctic is extremely rich in oil and gas reserves, locations such as Greenland and the Barents Sea have seen a huge growth in interest from the hydrocarbon industry. Despite the opportunities on offer, there are many challenges that may hinder operations. The presence of cold temperatures, ice and a lack of infrastructure pose logistical problems that make exploration expensive and risky. 

The 2013 Arctic Energy Summit, October 8-10, (Akureyri, Iceland). The 2013 Arctic Energy Summit is a multidisciplinary event expected to draw together several hundred industry officials, scientists, academics, policymakers, energy professionals and community leaders to collaborate and share leading approaches on Arctic energy issues. Building on the work done at the highly successful 2007 Arctic Energy Summit and Technology Conference, the 2013 Summit will address energy extraction, production and transmission in the Arctic as it relates to three thematic areas: richness, resilience and responsibility.  The 2013 Summit will be hosted by the Institute of the North in cooperation with local host Arctic Portal.

The Inaugural Meeting of The Arctic Circle, October 12-14, 2013 (Reykjavik, Iceland). The inaugural Arctic Circle will be held October 12-14, 2013. Subsequent Arctic Circle gatherings will be held in a different Arctic location each year, so that participants can become familiar with the challenges, needs and opportunities presented by these unique environments. The agenda for the first Arctic Circle gathering will include plenary sessions with international leaders on emerging topics of interest, such as: Sea ice melt and extreme weather; Security in the Arctic; Fisheries and ecosystem management; Shipping and transportation infrastructure; Arctic Resources; and Tourism.

Community Oil Spill Response in Bering and Anadyr Straights, (November 7-8, 2013) (Anchorage, Alaska). This workshop will bring together a diversity of stakeholders to advance a collective dialog to learn more about and respond to community desires to be part of oil spill first-response efforts that help protect food security and other local resources; come to agreement on the multiple roles local community members can play in responding to oil spills; and create an action plan for moving forward on this topic. The workshop is sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

Arctic Cities, Global Processes, and Local Realities, December 2-4, 2013 (Rovaniemi, Finland) The conference is organized jointly by the City of Rovaniemi and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, Finland. The goal of the conference is to present the latest research scientific knowledge about the global processes as they become local realities. Even if the Conference is scientific in orientation, it aims to bridge science and knowledge into action by bringing top scholars to share their research results, and to organize joint discussion with the leaders of the Arctic Cities. Sessions include: Rovaniemi Process: past, present, future; Arctic responses to global environmental problems; people and extractive industries; tourism in the Arctic; the Arctic in global economy; climate change in the Arctic; indigenous peoples in cities; and, Arctic global flows. Cross cutting themes include: Arctic cities and global processes; management and governance in the Arctic; and, Arctic together with non-Arctic.

USARC • 4350 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 510 • Arlington, Virginia 22203 USA • 703.525.0111 • info@arctic.gov  arctic.gov

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