Arctic Update Header
December 20, 2011

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House is in session to consider expiring tax concerns. The Senate is not expected to hold a formal session until January.


The SCience ICe EXercise (SCICEX) program recently announced they've updated their website, available here. The SCICEX program is an interagency effort to collaborate operational Navy, research agencies, and the marine research community to use nuclear-powered submarines for scientific studies of the Arctic Ocean. The goal of the program is to acquire comprehensive data about Arctic sea ice, water properties (biological, chemical, and hydrographic), and water depth (bathymetry) to improve our understanding of the Arctic Ocean basin and its role in the Earth's climate system.  

Media Reviewtodaysevents 


russian flagDozens Missing or Dead After Russian Offshore Oil Rig Sinks. The Russian oil rig Kolskaya sunk 200 miles off the east coast of Sakhalin late Saturday night in stormy weather with 67 crewmembers on board. So far, four people have been found dead and 14 people rescued, while 49 people still remain lost. The Kolskaya sunk in 20 minutes in 15-foot, 32-degree seas. In Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev called for all necessary help to be directed towards the rescue efforts. The Neftegaz-55, which had been towing the Kolskaya to the port of Kholmsk, in western Sakhalin, and the icebreaker Magadan were at the scene assisting with the rescue efforts. Alaska Dispatch 


NarwhaleNarwhal Task Ban Partially Lifted: NTI applauds the decision which it says is based on new aerial surveys. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has partially lifted its international trade restrictions on narwhal tusks. The department imposed the restriction on 17 communities in Nunavut one year ago. For months now, the federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, an Inuit land claim organization, have been working on a plan to help settle the dispute. The decision is based on some new information about narwhal populations, which was gathered over the past year. CBC News


Permafrost Thaw-Just How Scary Is It? One of the least understood - and one of the more unnerving - facets of climate change is the question of what will happen as the Arctic region heats up and permafrost in places like Alaska and Siberia thaws out. There's a whole lot of carbon locked up in all that frozen soil and organic matter. And, as the frost melts, that carbon will enter the atmosphere, most of it as carbon dioxide, but some of it transformed by bacteria into methane, an even more powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas. That, in turn, will warm the planet further. It's a potent feedback mechanism, and scientists still aren't sure just how potent it might be. Currently, permafrost thaw isn't very well incorporated into existing climate models. Indeed, most of the widely cited computer models - the ones that experts rely on to argue, for instance, that global greenhouse-gas emissions should peak in the next five years if we want to limit warming to 2