US Arctic Research Commission
August 17, 2011

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House and Senate are not in session.

Media Reviewtodaysevents    


FranUlmerA Changing Arctic Demands Strategic Planning. [Fran Ulmer Editorial] The National Ocean Council is developing a strategic action plan, "Changing Conditions in the Arctic," for implementation in 2012. The plan's objectives are to develop a list of priorities for research that will, in the face of climate and environmental change as well as increased human development, improve understanding of the Arctic marine environment and better prepare for the future. The co-leads of the team drafting this plan are John Farrell of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and Bob Winokur of the U.S Navy. This plan, which must ultimately be approved by the National Ocean Council, is one of nine being developed to implement the new National Ocean Policy signed by President Obama in July 2010. Sea Technology Magazine


Pacific Walruses Studied as Sea Ice Melts. USGS Alaska Science Center Walrusresearchers, in cooperation with the Native Village of Point Lay, will attempt to attach 35 satellite radio-tags to walruses on the northwestern Alaska coast in August as part of their ongoing study of how the Pacific walrus are responding to reduced sea ice conditions in late summer and fall. Walruses spend most of their lives at sea, but haul out on sea ice and sometimes land to rest between feeding bouts.  They can dive hundreds of feet to forage on the sea floor. However, when the sea ice recedes past the continental shelf into very deep waters of the Arctic Basin, the walruses haul out on land.  The extent of sea ice has been less in recent summers, and walruses have been hauling out on beaches in Alaska and Russia in the past few years. Thus, radio-tracking the walruses' movements in water and to and from land provides important insights into walrus movements and foraging behaviors in response to changing sea ice conditions. USGS 


Arctic Oil Rig Ready for Transportation. Russia's first offshore platform designed for Arctic conditions is ready to be tugged to its designated location in the Pechora Sea. Gazprom informs that start-up of the drilling operation is postponed to the first quarter of 2012. The "Prirazlomnaya" platform is planned to leave Murmansk on Wednesday. The voyage to the Pechora Sea will take at least ten days, if the weather conditions are good, Russian Business Consulting reports. Oil and Gas


U.S. Navy Completes Arctic Environmental Assessment. The U.S. Navy released an Arctic environmental assessment and outlook Aug. 15 that will be instrumental in developing future strategic plans and investments in a region that is becoming increasingly accessible to exploration and commercial enterprise. "In the past the Arctic was largely inaccessible, but increased seasonal melting of the sea ice is opening the region and creating opportunities for oil and gas exploration, maritime shipping, commercial fishing, and tourism," said Rear Adm. David Titley, director of the Navy's Task Force Climate Change. Defense Professionals  


The Science Behind Measuring Arctic Ice. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports ice extent, a two-dimensional measure of the Arctic Ocean's ice cover. But sea ice extent tells only part of the story: sea ice is not all flat like a sheet of paper. While freshly formed ice might not be much thicker than a few sheets of paper, the oldest, thickest ice in the Arctic can be more than 15 feet thick -- as thick as a one-story house. Scientists want to know not just how far the ice extends, but also how deep and thick it is, because thinner ice is more vulnerable to summer melt. But ice thickness is hard to measure, especially on a large scale. Scientists cannot measure the thickness of the entire Arctic sea ice cover by hiking around and drilling a hole every ten feet -- the Arctic Ocean spans millions of square miles and is constantly on the move, swept around by winds and ocean currents. And while some newer satellites can provide estimates of ice thickness, there is no long-term satellite record of ice thickness as there is for ice extent. Alaska Dispatch


Pondering Impact of Drilling Off Remote Northwest Alaska. Oil Drilling in AlaskaTo archaeologist Richard E. "Rick" Reanier, the 10-foot-high mound on a sandy spit on the coast of northwest Alaska was no mere pile of sand. Circling in front, he found the top of an old kerosene tin. Around the side, he turned over a rusty door from a nearly century-old cast iron stove. Brushing away some sand, he uncovered the ruins of an entrance corridor to an Inupiat house made of sod and driftwood. Beyond this stretch of beach lies the vast Chukchi Sea, stretching from eastern Siberia to the Alaskan coast on the edge of the Arctic. For centuries, Native Alaskan Inupiat have roamed these shores hunting bowhead whales, bearded seals, walruses and caribou. Now Shell Oil is also hunting in the Chukchi Sea. This pristine area inside the Arctic Circle is the next frontier for offshore oil drilling in the United States. The Interior Department estimates the Chukchi Sea could hold as much as 12 billion recoverable barrels of oil, about half of current U.S. proved reserves. Shell agrees, and some in Washington are inclined to support the company at a time of soaring energy costs. Even though it has not drilled a single hole. Washington Post


Climate Change Leads Inuits to Team Up with CSU to Predict Weather and Ice. Inuit hunters fighting to continue their traditional lifestyle in the melting Arctic have turned to Colorado scientists for help. Cracks open unexpectedly in sea-ice routes the Inuit rely on to track polar bears, caribou and other animals. Each year, the ice melts earlier and freezes later, forcing a shift from dog sleds to boats that require costly fuel. Elders' once-reliable predictions, based in part on touching and tasting sea ice, increasingly fail. Denver Post 


Arctic-based Emergency Towing System Test Successful. The Coast Guard, industry resources and the Alaska National Guard successfully tested the emergency towing system three miles offshore of the Red Dog Mine Portsite in the Chuckchi Sea 83 miles north of Kotzebue Tuesday. "This was a successful exercise for all involved and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Red Dog Mine and FOSS, without their resources and professionalism we would not have accomplished this effort," said Lt. Cmdr. Maeve Keogh, District Seventeen response management. "The mine put us up and made their equipment available to us and when the Air National Guard helicopter crew had to abort, the FOSS tug stepped in to transport the ETS before towing the SPAR." U.S. Coast Guard 


Shell Must Speak Up About North Sea Oil Spill [Blog]. No news is good news, or so the clich