Arctic Update Header
July 6, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 



The House and Senate are in recess this week.



oil spill in open oceanGAO Calls for Additional Crude Oil Dispersants Research. Federal agencies have spent more than $15.5 million on chemical dispersant research to combat offshore crude oil spills since fiscal 2000, but more work is needed, particularly on subsurface and Arctic applications, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released on June 29. GAO said most of the 106 projects were funded by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and its predecessor, the US Minerals Management Service; the National Science Foundation; and the US Environmental Protection Agency. More than half the funding came after the 2010 Macondo deepwater well accident and oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the report indicated. More than 40% of the projects focused at least in part on dispersant effectiveness, including 28 funded by BSEE and MMS on dispersant types' efficacy on different types of crude and under different ocean conditions, it said. "In contrast, relatively few projects were focused on applying dispersants subsurface or in the Arctic," it continued. "Specifically, NSF funded three projects looking at the use and effects of subsurface dispersant application, and BSEE and EPA funded the eight projects related to the use of chemical dispersants in Arctic or cold water environments." Oil and Gas Journal


Climate: Arctic Sea Ice Near Record Low. Along with the heat wave gripping a large part of the lower 48 states, some exceptional mid-June warmth in the far north helped speed Arctic sea to some record daily low levels in mid-month. The ice extent on June 30 (3.70 million square miles) would not normally be expected until July 21, based on 1979-2000 averages. This puts extent decline three weeks ahead of schedule. Summit County Citizens Voice


Arctic Warming Linked to Combination of Reduced Sea Ice and Global Atmospheric Warming. Professor Ian Simmonds from the University of Melbourne's School of Earth Sciences co-authored the study and said the new information showed this combined effect at both ground and atmospheric level played a key role in increasing the rate of warming in the Arctic. "Loss of sea ice contributes to ground level warming while global warming intensifies atmospheric circulation and contributes to increased temperatures higher in the Arctic atmosphere," Professor Simmonds said. Lead author, Dr James Screen of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne said the sea ice acted like a shiny lid on the Arctic Ocean. Science Codex


caribouADF&G Census: Western Arctic Caribou Herd Numbers in Decline. Alaska's largest caribou herd, the Western Arctic Herd, numbered about 325,000 animals as of July 2011, according to a census recently completed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. According to a release from the ADF&G, this represents a five percent decline since the last census was completed in July 2009, and a continuation of the four to six percent annual decline since it last peaked at 490,000 caribou in 2003. This trend is consistent, the department stated, with annual estimates of increasing adult cow mortality and declining calf survival. "Caribou populations fluctuate naturally in response to a variety of factors," Jim Dau said. Juneau Empire


Shell May be Ready for the Arctic, But Its Oil Spill Barge Isn't. A unique ice-class barge designed to clean up any oil spills that might result from Shell Alaska's upcoming operations in the Arctic Ocean has so far failed to acquire final U.S. Coast Guard certification. Engineers from the oil company say it's no longer appropriate to require them to meet the rigorous weather standards originally proposed. Further, sea trials for the Arctic Challenger - a 37-year-old barge undergoing a multimillion-dollar retrofit - have been delayed in Washington state as federal  inspectors insist on improvements to electrical, piping and fire protection systems, a senior Coast Guard inspector confirmed Thursday. LA Times


CrayfishAssessment Aims to Document Arctic Biodiversity. The Arctic is home to about 20,000 known species. And a team of scientists is working on documenting them for the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. The assessment is being conducted by the Arctic Council with the goal of describing the current state of the Arctic ecosystem. The lead scientist for the assessment was in Barrow recently to see the Alaskan Arctic first hand. Alaska Public Radio




Threatened Arctic Deserves Protection. [Opinion] The Arctic is one of most pristine and unique regions of our planet, but it is now in crisis from two serious threats -- climate change and industrialization. As sea ice retreats, the Arctic has become the "wild wild north" -- a last frontier for a failed development paradigm that has ravaged much of the rest of the biosphere. And while governments and industry say they will develop the Arctic "responsibly," their actions so far suggest otherwise. On climate change, things have quickly gone from bad to worse. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of other regions of our planet. Just last month, sea ice extent across the Arctic basin was the lowest ever recorded for the month, and CO2 levels in the area were measured at 400 parts per million -- the highest anywhere for hundreds of thousands of years. Scientists say that to stabilize climate, atmospheric CO2 concentrations need to be below 350 ppm. Climate models project that, at this rate, the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in summer within decades, and this catastrophic loss of sea ice will accelerate warming, release more methane (a potent greenhouse gas), alter the deep ocean current in the Atlantic, and significantly affect global climate. All sea ice dependent species are at risk, including polar bears, whales, walrus, ice seals, fish, and birds. In summer, walruses crowd the shores of Arctic Alaska and Russia, waiting for sea ice from which they can feed over offshore areas. Most polar bear populations are in decline. Northern seas are becoming acidic due to absorption of CO2 (forming carbonic acid), threatening the marine food web. Some coastal villages in Alaska, such as Newtok, Shishmaref, and Kivalina, are either in the process of moving to higher ground, or planning to do such, at a cost (to the U.S. taxpayer) of between $100 million to $200 million each -- as much as $2 million per household. But regardless of where these villages move, their subsistence cultures, dependent largely upon the sea ice ecosystem, are in serious jeopardy due to climate change. Yet, governments remain politically paralyzed in efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Huffington Post

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered yesterday.

Future Events    


Climate Report, July 10, 2012. Next week, the NOAA State of the Climate Report will be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), and there will be a press release and Webinar on Tuesday, 10 July at noon DC time. The Arctic is being featured in the Webinar, and there will be a member of the panel providing a summary and highlights of the Arctic chapter in the report. You may join the Webinar as an "attendee" or simply call in by teleconference.

To join the event as an attendee

1. Go here

2. Click "Join Now".


To join the teleconference:

1-517-308-9286 or 800-857-9789

Passcode: CLIMATE


Polar Research Board Meeting, July 13-14, 2012. The Polar Research Board will hold a meeting in Portland, OR. Additional information to follow.           



healthmeetinglogo15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event 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.


98th meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission, August 9-10, 2012. Fairbanks, AK. For more information, go to USARC 98th Meeting Draft Agenda 


Week of the Arctic, August 13-18, 2012. The Arctic is front and center in peoples' minds.  Increased maritime traffic and new opportunities for development have brought about more reasons to understand and work toward safe and secure operations both on land and off Alaska's coast. To help Alaskans understand these critical challenges and issues at stake in the Arctic, the Institute convened the first Week of the Arctic last year, drawing over 550 participants to five events in four days. The 2012 Week of the Arctic will take place August 13-18 in Anchorage, Alaska. Week of the Arctic events will include:

The Week of the Arctic's signature event is the annual Robert O. Anderson Sustainable Arctic Award Dinner on Friday, August 17th. This year we'll be recognizing Red Dog Mine for their sustainable development in the North.


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-27, 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.


inuitconferencelogoArctic/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.  

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