Arctic Update Header
December 19, 2011

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House will consider a Senate amendment to a bill that would extend certain unemployment benefits and a payroll tax break for workers, as well prevent a scheduled cut in Medicare payments to doctors (HR 3630). It is also expected to consider legislation under suspension of the rules. Votes are expected at 6:30 p.m. The Senate is not in session.

Media Reviewtodaysevents 


Senate OKs Pick for Ambassador to Russia. During Saturday's Senate session, the chamber approved President Obama's much-contested nomination of Michael McFaul to be U.S. ambassador to Russia. The chamber approved the nominee by unanimous consent during wrap-up. McFaul, tapped by Obama for the position this fall, is the top Russia expert on the White House's National Security Council. McFaul's appointment to Moscow is a key to the White House's diplomatic strategy toward Russia during a tense time for bilateral relations. The confirmation was made possible earlier this week when Illinois Republican Mark Steven Kirk lifted a hold he had placed on the nominee due to his dissatisfaction with the White House's relations with Russia. Kirk had concerns about the United States sharing missile defense data with Russia. Congressional Quarterly



president signingObama Signs Legislation, Funding Government Through Sept. 30. The Senate passed a nine-month fiscal 2012 spending bill Saturday, 67-32, eliminating the risk of government shutdowns until next fall. President Obama signed the measure into law Saturday afternoon. The vote came on a conference report of an omnibus spending package. Democrats this week held up a deal on the measure while negotiating over a payroll-tax holiday for workers and other year-end measures. Government Executive 


Oil Rig Capsizes in Freezing Waters Off Russia's Far East: Of 67 on board, 14 known survivors early Monday. About 40 people remain missing after a drilling rig capsized early Dec. 18, a disaster that highlights the dangers of offshore oil operations in Arctic waters. The floating oil platform with 67 aboard capsized off the coast of Sakhalin Island in the Far East of Russia in a violent storm, about 200 kilometres from land. While 14 workers were rescued, at least 14 died; some 40 others remain missing in the ice-choked, freezing waters. Nunatsiaq Online


In Northwest Alaska, Worries Persist Over Offshore Oil and Gas Development. "We are not ready," was the phrase heard repeated in the Northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue at last week's hearing  on the federal offshore oil-and-gas-leasing program. Most of the dozen or so people who showed up to testify at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management meeting were skeptical about  allowing further oil and gas leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. "This lease sale caught a lot of people by surprise," said Ukallaysaaq Tom Okleasik, planning director with the Northwest Arctic Borough, noting that existing leases were already controversial. The current draft proposal covers lease sales for the next five years. Alaska Dispatch 


Remembering Traditional Astronomy in Arctic. [Commentary] " Early in December, I was taking Alaska Husky 'Avu' for an evening walk, trying to avoid icy patches on the road. The temperature was dropping, but I asked Avu to walk slowly while I surveyed the evening sky - the new moon, Jupiter and much more. Made me think of the way the Native peoples of the Arctic, including Greenland, Canada and Alaska, have described the winter sky in traditional terms. While we often think of being tied to the earth's surface or atmosphere by gravity, some folks in Barrow would tell me of ancestors who have been to the moon." Alaska Dispatch 


Healy, Coast GuardCoast Guard Cutter Healy Headed to Dutch Harbor. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy is scheduled to moor at the Unalaska Marine Center pier as of December 17, 2011. The Healy, America's newest and largest ice breaker, will moor for a logistics port call having completed the final Arctic science mission of the 2011 field season. 




Russia Blasting Into Fragile Arctic in Search of Oil. For as long as humans have spread out to conquer the planet, despoiling as they progress, the Arctic's punishing environment has been its best defense. Like fortress ramparts, heavy snow, metres-thick ice, and battering winds made it very hard for miners, oil drillers and industrialists to take much ground, let alone make a grab for the riches of a frozen sea. Those walls are crumbling fast. The rush is on to drill offshore in the fragile Arctic, and Russia is at the front of the pack with ambitious  and risky plans to exploit some of the world's biggest untapped oil and natural gas reserves. The Toronto Star  




permafrostScientists Try to Gauge Permafrost Gases. Scientists are working in Alaska to ascertain the potential impact of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere from the arctic's permafrost. The New York Times reported Friday that scientists now estimate the frozen north contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. With temperatures rising in the region, the researchers are trying to determine how much of the trapped carbon is being released and what the impact will be on global warming, particularly if it enters the atmosphere as methane gas rather than carbon dioxide. The New York Times




belugaWill Russian Icebreaker Make It In Time to Save 100 Whales Trapped in Arctic Ice? Off the east coast of the Russian Chukotka peninsula, winter has come hard and fast, freezing parts of the Bering Strait. Fifteen miles south of the village of Yanrakynnot, in the Sinyavinsky Strait, 100 beluga whales are trapped in the ice. Hunters have reported that they are in two polynyas and are currently able to breathe freely. However, food and clean water will soon run out, and the whales will likely die of exhaustion or starvation if the ice is not soon broken up. Alaska Dispatch 


canadian flag[Canada] Arctic Ozone Monitoring Stations Safe From Budget Cuts: Stations in Alert, Eureka and Resolute will remain; no word on seven stations in southern Canada. A senior federal official says there will be no cuts to ozone monitoring stations in the Arctic. Environment Canada is reducing its ozone monitoring program; yet at a meeting this week of the federal environment committee, Karen Dodds, a senior environment official, said the stations in Canada's far north would be maintained. CBC News







Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered Friday.

Future Events                                   


Alaska Marine Science Symposium, January 16-20, 2012. The symposium was first held in 2002 to connect scientists in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond in an effort to collaborate and communicate on research


activities in the marine regions off Alaska. There will be plenary and poster sessions featuring a broad spectrum of ocean science on issues of climate, oceanography, lower trophic levels, the benthos, fish and invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, local and traditional knowledge, and socioeconomic research. There will also be speakers, workshops and special sessions.


Workshop: Responding to Arctic Environmental Change: Translating Our Growing Understanding into a Research Agenda for Action Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2012.   Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. Co-sponsored by International Study of ArcISAC logotic Change (ISAC) and the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University. Endorsed by the International Arctic Science Committee, this workshop is the first in a planned series of meetings that aim to collectively shape and coordinate initiatives for research that directly addresses the needs of stakeholders who are affected by change or who are addressing arctic environmental change. The long-term objective is to enable local people, the arctic nations and the wider global community, including the scientific community, to better respond to a changing Arctic. This workshop is a pre-IPY 2012 Conference event. It is intended to develop a science plan that will feed into and further evolve at IPY 2012 Conference "From Knowledge to Action". For more information and to register for the workshop go here. 


Arctic Science Summit Week 2012, April 20-22, 2012. The summit will provide opportunities for international coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas of Arctic science. Side meetings organized by stakeholders in arctic science and policy are also expected. More information to follow. 


From Knowledge to Action, April 22-27, 2012. The conference will bring together over 2,000 Arctic and Antarctic researchers, policy and decision-makers, and a broad range of interested parties from academia, industry, non-government, education and circumpolar communities including indigenous peoples. The conference is hosted by the Canadian IPY Program Office, in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada, among other groups. Each day of the conference will feature a program of keynote speakers, plenary panel discussions, parallel science sessions, as well as dedicated poster sessions. The conference-wide plenaries will explore themes related to topics of polar change, global linkages, communities and health, ecosystem services, infrastructure, resources and security. Other sessions will provide the opportunity to present and discuss the application of research findings, policy implications and how to take polar knowledge to action. 


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.  


The Arctic Imperative Summit, July 29-August 1, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research.


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, 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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