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June 18, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House returns from recess to consider a number of legislative items under suspension of the rules, including a mandated increase to oil and gas production. The Senate continue work on the farm bill. By week's end, the Senate may begin work on a bill to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.


Nominations are requested for the SCICEX Science Advisory Committee. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) request nominations for the SCICEX Science Advisory Committee (SAC). SCICEX (Science Ice Exercise) is the US Federal inter-agency submarine Arctic science program. The SAC advises the Federal agencies on scientific priorities, makes recommendations for baseline data collection, and periodically reviews these and updates the SCICEX Phase II Science Plan. The SAC members represent the fields of sea ice geophysics, physical oceanography, biological oceanography and marine geophysics. The SAC typically meets once per year, usually at either ONR or NSF. Nominations are currently sought for a sea ice geophysicist and marine geophysicist. Nominations should include the name, scientific background and accomplishments of the nominee, and a brief statement as to why they would be a good choice for SAC membership. Experience with submarine-based science is not required. Nominations should be sent to Dr. Martin Jeffries ( and Dr. Erica Key ( no later than 31 July 2012. For more information about SCICEX, including the current SAC membership and the Phase II Science Plan, go to



Congress in SessionHouse Schedule is Tight, Political. Entering a crucial stretch for the student loan debate and transportation reauthorization conference committee, House negotiators will continue churning away this week while the floor debate will be dominated by election-year energy messaging. House Republicans are bringing a series of bills to the floor that concern energy production and gas prices in an attempt to make President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats look ineffectual on energy policy. Roll Call


Sleeping Arctic Methane Has Serious Implications for Florida Coastline: study. The ancient reserves of methane gas seeping from the melting Arctic ice cap told Jeff Chanton and fellow researchers what they already knew: As the permafrost thaws, there is a release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that causes climate warming. The trick was figuring out how much, said Chanton, the John W. Winchester Professor of Oceanography at Florida State University. The four-member team - whose findings were published in the respected journal Nature Geoscience - documented a large number of gas seep sites in the Arctic where permafrost is thawing and glaciers receding (they found 77 previously undocumented seep sites, comprising 150,000 vents to the atmosphere). Until recently, the cryosphere (frozen soil and ice) has served to plug or block these vents. But thawing conditions have allowed the conduits to open, and deep geologic methane now escapes. PhysOrg


Dave BentonPresident Obama Appoints Juneau Resident Dave Benton to Arctic Research Commission. Benton, who is currently a self-employed marine resource consultant, was formerly the Executive Director of the Marine Conservation Alliance from 2004 to 2010. Benton has also served on the North Pacific Research Baord as well as the North Pacific Management Council. He also served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from 1994 until 2000. Benton joins Fran Ulmer, the former Chancellor of the University of Alaska, who chairs the council, and Mary C. Pete, who is the director of the Kuskokwim Campus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Alaska Native News 


Shoot the Messenger: Carolina's Costly Mistake on Sea Level Rise. The state Senate in North Carolina voted overwhelmingly last week to pass a bill on sea level rise that has been widely reported in the national media.  This bill prevents all state and local agencies from developing regulations or planning documents that consider the possibility of a significant increase in the rate of sea level rise in the future.  In other words, when looking for guidance on how to protect the coastal economy and environment over the next century, the state's planners may only look backward to historical data, not forward to expected changes in the Earth's climate dynamics. This bill has been widely ridiculed in many news outlets and science blogs, culminating with a biting satire of the proposal by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. Personally, the whole thing just makes me sad. Environment360


Research Icebreakers Sails for Arctic. The research vessel Polarstern has left Bremerhaven on course for the Arctic with 44 expedition participants from institutions from Germany, Belgium, USA and the United Kingdom who will spend around one month on board. Their main study area is the Fram Strait between Spitsbergen and Greenland where they will conduct long-term oceanographic measurements. The Fram Strait is the only deep sea water connection between the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic. How much water is exchanged between these two seas and what heat and salt transport is associated with this? How is the water in the Arctic Ocean altered which flows in the East to the North and in the West to the South? Which masses of water flow how quickly through the Fram Strait? To record these basic parameters, temperature, salinity and oxygen content are determined precisely with sensitive sensors. MarineLink 


losThe Law of the Sea Convention: Perspectives from the US Military. Written testimony of US Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. for a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss how United States accession to the Law of the Sea Convention would enhance Coast Guard operations and advance our global leadership. Like the six commandants before me, I am firmly convinced that the legal certainty and stability accorded by the Convention will strengthen Coast Guard efforts in: (1) sustaining mission excellence as America's maritime first responder; (2) protecting American prosperity; and (3) ensuring America's Arctic future. The United States is a maritime and Arctic nation. We have one of the world's longest coastlines, measuring more than 95,000 miles, and the world's largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), responsible for over $122 billion in revenue annually. The U.S. maritime transportation system is comprised of 361 ports and thousands of miles of maritime thoroughfares that support 95% of U.S. foreign trade. Most of that trade is transported on over 7,500 vessels that make more than 60,000 visits to U.S. ports annually. The need to secure our maritime rights and interests, including ocean resources, is paramount. To this end, the Coast Guard maintains a persistent maritime presence to protect Americans on the sea, to protect America from threats delivered by sea, and to protect the sea itself. Defense Professionals 


russian flagNorthern Sea Route Ice-Free Soon? The Northern Passage, the sea route along the North coast of Russia, is expected to be free of ice early again this summer. The forecast was made by sea ice physicists of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association based on a series of measurement flights over the Laptev Sea, a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. Among experts the shelf sea is known as an "ice factory" of Arctic sea ice. At the end of last winter the researchers discovered large areas of thin ice not being thick enough to withstand the summer melt. MarineLink 


Inuit Want Winning Conditions for Canada in Arctic. Having recently been elected into the position of national Inuit leader, I look forward to working with the Prime Minister, MPs, Senators, members of the public service and the national media. This is a critical time for the Canadian Arctic. There is an increasing focus on our largest region of Canada domestically and there is growing international interest. As the global climate is changing rapidly, the effects in our Inuit homeland, the area we call Inuit Nunangat are happening the fastest. As the ice that Inuit have traversed over for centuries melts and the Northwest Passage becomes accessible to others, the race for resources in the Arctic compounds the complexity of development in the region. For Canadian political leaders and policymakers, the winning conditions for Canada in the Arctic include engaging Inuit in any consultations, development processes, and political activity related to our precious northern regions. The Hill Times 


Oil Drilling in AlaskaOil Companies to Establish Arctic R&D Center. Rosneft and ExxonMobil agreed to expand and expedite joint efforts to develop oil reserves in tight low-permeability formations in Western Siberia using advanced technologies that ExxonMobil has successfully employed in North America. The other agreement signed will enable ExxonMobil to join the new Arctic Research Center, which will provide a full range of services to support all stages of oil and gas development on the Arctic shelf, including ice monitoring and management, design of ice resistant offshore vessels, structures and Arctic pipelines, logistics and safety. MarineLink 


Ice Pack Politics. Now that summer is here, the Arctic is crowded with life. Phytoplankton are blooming in its chilly seas. Fish, birds and whales are gorging on them. Millions of migratory geese are in their northern breeding grounds. And the area is teeming with scientists, performing a new Arctic ritual. Between now and early September, when the polar pack ice shrivels to its summer minimum, they will pore over the daily sea-ice reports of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Its satellite data will show that the ice has shrunk far below the long-term average. This is no anomaly: Since the 1970s the sea ice has retreated by around 12 per cent each decade. Last year the summer minimum was 1.67 million square miles, almost half the average for the 1960s.The Chronicle Herald 


polarseaReprieve for Icebreakers Polar Sea. The Coast Guard has postponed plans to scrap the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Sea this year. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp made the decision Thursday after meeting with Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the senators said Friday. "The Polar Sea's hull is still in sound condition," Cantwell said. "Postponing its scrapping allows the administration and Congress more time to consider all options for fulfilling the nation's critical icebreaking missions." Juneau Empire 


Federal Agency Proposes Limits for Eskimo Bowhead Whalers. How many bowhead whales should Alaska Natives harvest each year? That's the question proposed by a draft Environmental Impact Statement released Friday by the National Marine Fisheries Service. It looks at the impact of the annual spring and fall hunts for the giant whale that migrates past Alaska's northern coasts. The comment period on the statement, which proposes catch limits for hunters, opened Friday, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Alaska Native subsistence hunters have hunted the bowhead whale for hundreds of years, said a written statement from the agency. Today, 11 communities take fewer than 1 percent of the Western Arctic subsistence stock each year, an amount that has allowed the population to continue growing. At least 33 whales were taken this spring, a high number made possible in part by favorable hunting conditions. A fall hunt is also planned before the sea ice returns. Alaska Dispatch 


offshore oilGreenland's Minerals Loom in China-Denmark Ties. Chinese President Hu Jintao's three-day visit to Denmark may ostensibly have been about signing billions worth of business deals, but a stake in Greenland's huge mineral wealth may have been the elephant in the room. Greenland, a self-governing dependency of Denmark, has some of the world's biggest deposits of rare earth elements, strategically important metals in which China has a near monopoly. The north Atlantic island is also situated next to sea lanes that are increasingly important as the Arctic melts, and Washington has an air base in the northwest of the territory. That may explain why the leader of the world's most populous country decided to devote three days to visiting Denmark, a nation of just 5.6 million. CNBC 


research on iceArctic Scientists Plan for Changing Future. Scientists from more than a dozen federal agencies recently released a five-year plan for how they will attempt to collaborate and proceed with the myriad of changes being studied in the Arctic.  "The structure of the plan reflects an emphasis on human well-being," said Brendan Kelly, assistant director for Polar Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy, executive office of the President, who chaired a recent meeting of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee. "The Arctic is warming quickly and it has broad impacts on the people living in the Arctic as well as the people living outside the Arctic." The plan, which will guide research collaboration and efforts starting in 2014, outlines seven over-arching categories ranging from sea ice and marine ecosystem studies to adaptation tools for sustaining communities. Public comments are being requested through June 22 on the report, which can be viewed and downloaded online from the National Science Foundation office of Polar Programs here. The Arctic Sounder 


Regulator Vows Close Watch on Shell Drilling in Arctic. Federal inspectors will be stationed around the clock on rigs that Shell plans to use in drilling up to five wells in Arctic waters near Alaska this summer, a top U.S. regulator promised Thursday. Director James Watson of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said having the offshore drilling inspectors on the Kulluk and Discoverer rigs will ensure a close watch on Shell's proposed oil exploration, should it win final government approval. "BSEE will diligently review and monitor Shell's proposed activities at each stage to ensure they remain compliant with federal regulations and are performed in a safe manner," Watson told reporters on a conference call. Anchorage Daily News 


shellShell Must Do More Testing Before Drilling for Oil in Alaska's Arctic. To satisfy the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Royal Dutch Shell is being asked undergo further testing before the company is allowed to begin expletory drilling for oil in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The tests, to be administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and BSEE, are intended to examine the safety equipment designed to stop the flow of oil in the event of an oil well blowout. BSEE directory James Watson said the examinations will take place in the coming weeks, but he didn't say when specifically. He added that the test results must be acceptable before any offshore drilling activities can take place off the shores of Alaska. Alaska Dispatch

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered yesterday.

Future Events               



The Science of How Hunting Assists Species Conservation and Management, June 19, 2012. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight will hold a hearing on hunting and conservation. Witnesses will Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Daniel Ashe, Chairman of the Conservation Committee of Safari Club International Al Maki, Duke University Professor Stuart Primm, and Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Nick Wiley.


The Institute of the North hosts Arctic-related events. For details, go here. Three upcoming events, all in Anchorage, AK are: (a) Commercial Applications of Northern Airships, July 31-Aug 2, Federal Research: Priorities and Processes, August 13, and Northern Energy Technology and Science Fair, August 15.


15th 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 healthmeetinglogoindigenous 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. Click here.


98th meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission. Aug. 9-10. Fairbanks, AK. More info coming soon. 


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. Click here


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 inuitconferencelogomuseums 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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