US Arctic Research Commission
August 5, 2011

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House and Senate are not in session.

Media Reviewtodaysevents    


 Arctic Sea Ice May Approach Record Low. Arctic sea ice, a benchmark for the earth's rising temperature, may approach a record low in September after its biggest July melt since 2007, researchers at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said. Ice covered an average of 7.92 million square kilometers (3.06 million square miles) of ocean last month, 210,000 square kilometers less than the average for the same period in 2007, when there was a record melt season, according to the center. After a recovery toward the end of the month, an all-time low is "an outside possibility," said Walt Meier, an NSIDC scientist. Bloomberg


Interior Gives Green Light to Arctic Drilling Plan. Over the strong objections of environmentalists, the Interior Department on Thursday approved a controversial offshore drilling plan in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. The conditional approval allows Shell to next summer drill four shallow water wells off Alaska's northern coast - an area that holds major oil and gas reserves but is frozen for much of the year. Congressional Quarterly


Large Variations in Arctic Sea Ice: Polar Ice Much Less Stable Than Previously Thought, Study Finds. For the last 10,000 years, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has been far from constant. For several thousand years, there was much less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean -- probably less than half of current amounts. This is indicated by new findings by the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen. The results of the study will be published in the journal Science. Science Daily


Arctic Oil Spill Could Prove Tough to Clean. Shell Exploration's Oil Whale Exxonplan for exploratory oil and gas drilling in the Beaufort Sea won conditional approval from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. One of the big questions now is what happens if there's an oil spill. Agency officials are expected as early as next week to act on Shell's oil spill response plan, which conservationists say falls short of the mark for responding to an accident in icy waters, often shrouded in darkness, hundreds of miles from the nearest deep-water port. LA Times


Arctic Ice Can Bounce Back: Study, It's Been in Worse Shape Before. The meltdown underway in the Arctic is remarkable, but an international team of beachcombers has uncovered evidence it's been much worse before. Driftwood from Canada, Alaska and Siberia picked up on the planet's most northern beaches indicates that, for several thousand of the past 10,000 years, there was at least 50 per cent less sea ice in the Arctic than there is today, the team reports today in the journal Science. Open water used to crash ashore on Greenland's northern beaches, which are now locked in ice year-round, say the scientists, who have weathered fierce summer snowstorms on their beachcombing expeditions. Winnipeg Free Press


Canada to use Drones to Patrol Arctic: Part of disaster training exercises. Canada canadian flagis deploying unmanned surveillance aircraft to the High Arctic for the first time, as part of the largest military exercise ever in the Far North. Catapult-launched Boeing ScanEagle unarmed drones similar to those used by the Canadian Forces for surveillance in Afghanistan are to assist in a major air disaster scenario in an extremely remote area near Resolute, which is about 3,000 kilometres north of Ottawa. They will also assist in a major maritime disaster exercise being overseen by the Canadian Coast Guard in waters between Canada and Greenland. Ottawa Citizen


Alaska Weakens Oil Spill Prevention, Response: End of coastal management makes Alaska first state to reduce environmental protection following Gulf spill. Alaska is becoming a national leader in a new area, relaxing its regulation of offshore oil drilling spill response and prevention at a time when others are seeking more protections. That change comes following BP's huge Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which elsewhere prompted efforts to strengthen requirements that offshore drilling companies do a better job of both preventing spills and responding to them when they do happen. Alaska is alone in weakening its offshore drilling regulations, according to state and environmental groups who monitor such regulations. The change is due to the elimination of the Alaska's Coastal Management program, under which the state could require drilling and other activities in the outer continental shelf meet tougher standards than the federal minimums. Alaska has no jurisdiction in federal waters outside the state's 3-mile limit. Juneau Empire

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 Hverager