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 cliché goes. But when bad headlines strike, keeping quiet is rarely a sensible move. Oil has been leaking from a ruptured pipeline at Royal Dutch Shell's Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea since last Wednesday at least, but even three days after the company confirmed that the spill had actually occurred, there is still no indication of how much crude has leaked into the ocean. It is important to note that it is unlikely to be very much. Production at Gannet Alpha is estimated to be between 4,500 to 6,000 barrels of oil a day and with the well that feeds the pipeline shut-in since Wednesday, the amount of oil that could have leaked out probably totals in the hundreds of barrels rather than the thousands. The Wall Street Journal  


Greenlanders Divided on Arctic Oil, Gas Exploration. The fast-changing world is impinging on the Arctic. Companies are exploring for minerals and oil and gas reserves. People in Greenland are watching anxiously - wondering what this means for them. There are environmental concerns but hopes that oil revenue would help the economy. NPR


In the Land of White Nights and Erik the Red. For most of history, greenlandGreenland has been one of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who could say exactly where it is, who runs the place and who lives there. But with the Arctic ice retreating, some of the world's largest energy and mining companies are now eager to explore for oil, gas and rare earth minerals. NPR

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered yesterday.


Future Events                     


13th Arctic Ungulates Conference (AUC), August 22-26, 2011. The theme of the conference will be "Challenges of Managing Northern Ungulates." The theme addresses the difficulties of managing ungulate populations that are faced with the unpredictable effects of climate change and an ever-increasing human presence on the land. The conference will also focus on the challenges associated with developing recovery actions for declining caribou and reindeer populations that are an integral part of Aboriginal cultures and ways of life.


9th International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering, September 3-7, 2011. The Melnikov Permafrost Institute (Yakutsk, Russia), the Institute of Northern Mining (Yakutsk, Russia), the Cold and Arid Regions Engineering and Environmental Research Institute (Lanzhou, China), and the Heilongjiang Institute of Cold Region Engineering (Harbin, China) will host the Ninth International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering to be held in Mirny, Yakutia. The aim of the Symposium is to provide a forum for discussion of permafrost engineering issues, as well as for exchanging practical experience in construction and maintenance of engineering structures on frozen ground. For additional information, please contact Lilia Prokopieva. 


Northern Research Forum 6th Open Assembly, September 4-6, 2011. "Our Ice Dependent World," organized by the Northern Research Forum and its partners as the Northern Research Forum 6th Open Assembly, will be hosted by the University of Akureyri in the town of Hveragerđi, Iceland. Addressing the three 'poles' - the Arctic, the Antarctic and the Himalayan region- the sub-themes represent different  perspectives for viewing the subject of natural ice and evaluating its importance.  The event will consider implications of ice melt on humanity, communities, minds, perceptions and knowledge on ice; International law, 'soft law' and governance on ice.


4th International Sea Duck Conference, seaduckconferencelogoSeptember 12-16, 2011. The Sea Duck Joint Venture has helped sponsor a North American Sea Duck Conference once every three years since 2002. These conferences provide opportunities for researchers and managers to share information and research results, conduct workshops on specific issues, and to hold related meetings. The 4th conference will officially be an international conference and will be held in Seward, Alaska, 12-16 September, 2011, with participants from the U.S., Canada, Russia and Europe, focusing on sea ducks in the North and the Arctic. It will be held at the Windsong Lodge, with three days of presentations and workshops, and there will be a chartered boat trip the last day into the Kenai Fjords to watch sea ducks. Registration is available on the website for the conference and the excursion.


Lowell Wakefield International Fisheries Symposium, September 14-17, 2011. The 27th Lowell Wakefield International Fisheries Symposium, entitled "Fishing People of the North: Cultures, Economies, and Management Responding to Change," will be held in Anchorage, Alaska. This international symposium will provide a forum for scholars, fishery managers, fishing families, and others to explore the human dimensions of fishery systems and growing need to include social science research in policy processes. The conference is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sea Grant program.    


Advanced Workshop on Oil Spills In Sea Ice: Past, Present and Future Fermo

September 20-23, 2011. A technical workshop, organized by Dr. Peter Wadhams, on the physical problems associated with oil spills and blowouts in sea ice will be held at the Istituto Geografico Polare "Silvio Zavatti," Fermo, Italy. Scientists, engineers and policy makers are invited to address the questions of how oil is emitted from a blowout or spill, how the oil and gas are incorporated in the under-ice surface, how the oil layer evolves, how the oil is transported by the ice, and how and where eventual release occurs. The aim is to incorporate the experience of those scientists who worked in this field in the 1970s-1990s, when large-scale field experiments involving oil release were possible, and to relate this to the needs of present researchers who are seeking solutions to the problem of a sustainable Arctic oil spill management system. Registration forms are available here


Murmansk Arctic Forum, October 1-2, 2011. Hosted by the Russian Geographic Society, the forum will host discussion on Arctic navigation, development of the Northern Sea Route, railway extensions, and construction of a deep-water port in Arkhangelsk.  The official website is in Russian.


The Arctic in Transition: Regional Issues and Geopolitics, October 3-4, 2011. The conference is organized by the Center for Geopolitical Studies of the Raoul Dandurand Chair, in collaboration with the Centre Jacques Cartier (France), ArcticNet (Universite Laval, Quebec), and the Northern Research Forum (University of the Arctic; University of Lapland, Finland). This high-level international meeting reunites political scientists, lawyers, geographers, historians and practitioners to discuss, first, the socio-economic, political and security issues of developed or developing Arctic regions, and, second, to look at the evolving relationships between these spaces, their peoples, and global affairs. The meeting mainly seeks to adress security issue(s) of the various region(s) that make up the circumpolar world. Three Arctic regions will be highlighted: a) the North-American Arctic (United States (Alaska); Canada (Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik) and Greenland; b) the North Pacific Rim (Alaska, Russian Far East, Beaufort Sea/Chukchi); c) the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (Nordic countries - Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland - and Russia).


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Details to follow.   


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Heath, August 5-10, 2012. This kivalina girlevent is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and indigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change-health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and, behavioral health.


Arctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World , October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage museums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature. For more information, please email Lauren Marr.


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