Arctic Update Header
 January 4, 2013

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House passed an increase in borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program.  Both chambers will convene a Joint Session of Congress to count Electoral Ballots.



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Greens Seek Time-Out After Arctic Accident. The accident that sent a Shell Oil drilling vessel aground on an Alaskan island shows the oil giant should be sidelined from Arctic drilling, green groups said Thursday. The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and the Island Trails Network said they will ask the Obama administration to halt all permitting for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and for Congress to pass the safety recommendations issued by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill commission. Politico


president signing Administration Urged to Revisit Arctic Drilling Plans. Offshore drilling critics want the Obama administration and Congress to reconsider oil and gas development in Arctic seas following the stranding of a drilling rig off Alaska's coast earlier this week. A top House Democrat and environmentalists said Thursday that the Dec. 31 grounding of Shell Oil Co.'s Kulluk drilling rig about 60 miles from the town of Kodiak, Alaska, highlights the risks of the company's plans to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off that state's Arctic coast. Congressional Quarterly


Murkowski Keeps Main Committee Assignments. Sen. Lisa Murkowski will keep all her main committee assignments during the new Congress, including a slot on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Murkowski, Republican, also will be on Indian Affairs, meaning both Alaska's senators are expected to serve on that committee. Democrat Sen. Mark Begich had previously announced his assignment to the panel. Anchorage Daily News


...and as a reminder about a key change in congressional staff... on Dec. 17th, Sen. Murkowski hired Jay Sterne to advise her on federal fisheries policies. Sterne, a twenty year veteran of fisheries and Arctic policy discussions, brings intellectual heft to a key position to the State of Alaska, where the fishing industry and emerging Arctic possibilities represent a growing economic engine. Sterne's hiring will fill the opening created by Stefanie Moreland who joined AK Governor Sean Parnell's administration.


AK Native family drawing$1.9 Million Grant Goes to Alaska Native Language Program. A University of Alaska Fairbanks language program received a $1.9 million boost last week from a U.S. Department of Education grant that targets language-learning techniques for Alaska Native students. The three-year project will provide computer-based language programs for Alaska Native students, grades K-12 and graduate students who are or are wanting to be educators. The Dutch Harbor Fisherman


Solar Flare Fuels Spectacular Aurora in Alaska. Interior Alaska residents have been treated to a spectacular northern lights show this week, a rare treat following a long stretch of low aurora activity. A dancing aurora blanketed the area around Fairbanks on Wednesday night, and was followed with a more muted display on Thursday. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


shell Shell Hoped to Save Millions in Taxes by Moving Now-Grounded Drill Rig Out of Alaska. A move by Shell to avoid millions in Alaska state taxes may have backfired when the oil rig Kulluk ran aground Monday on Kodiak Island. The rig initially went adrift while it was being towed to a shipyard and tax shelter in Seattle. Instead, the vessel found itself literally stuck inside Alaska at the start of the new year.  The Kulluk grounded off Kodiak Island Monday night, prompting a 500-plus person response. According to Shell Operations Manager Sean Churchfield, the grounding occurred during a fierce storm that produced near-hurricane-force seas with waves exceeding 40 feet at times and wind gusts of 50 knots and higher. Alaska Dispatch


The Future of Arctic Drilling. There's a world of oil up in the Arctic waters off Alaska. But a drilling rig run aground has revived fears about the price we may pay to tap it. While you were snug in your bed last night, a giant Shell Oil drilling rig was being slammed and battered against the frigid rocky shore of a icy island in the Gulf of Alaska.  The big rig broke loose from its tug last week on its way south from the Arctic for winter repairs. On Point


NarwhaleTwo Men Face Charges in Alleged Canada-US Narwhal Tusk Smuggling Ring. Two American men face charges for allegedly smuggling prized narwhal tusks from Canada to the U.S., officials said. Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., have both been arrested and face conspiracy, money laundering, and smuggling charges, the U.S. justice department said in a statement last month. Sun News Network


Arctic Foxes Suffer While Reds Thrive in Northern Canada. And, unusually, the number of red foxes has simultaneously surged in the area, on Hudson Bay. The surprising pattern has prompted observers to question whether the elusive Arctic foxes are being driven out of their dens by invading red relatives. BBC News


Bowhead Huge Population Rebound for Bowhead Whales Off Alaska's North Slope. Bowhead whales counted from a sea-ice perch north of Barrow are "doing beautifully," according to Craig George with the North Slope Borough.  Since 1978, George has counted bowhead whales for an eight-week stretch each year from mid-April until June. The whales, which spend their lives in arctic waters, migrate past Point Barrow during that time. Since George and his colleagues began recording whale numbers 34 years ago, their counts have increased from 1,200 animals in 1978 to 3,400 in 2011. From those numbers of whales seen, George estimates there are now 14,000 to 15,000 animals. Alaska Dispatch

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


H.R.49 : To direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish and implement a competitive oil and gas leasing program that will result in an environmentally sound program for the exploration, development, and production of the oil and gas resources of the Coastal Plain of Alaska, and for other purposes. (Young of Alaska, introduced and referred to committee)


H.R.75 : To end membership of the United States in the United Nations. (Broun, introduced and referred to committee)


H.R.83 : To require the Secretary of the Interior to assemble a team of technical, policy, and financial experts to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the United States and the Freely Associated States through the development of action plans aimed at reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels and increasing use of indigenous clean-energy resources, and for other purposes. (Christensen, introduced and referred to committee)


H.R.139 : To preserve the Arctic coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, as wilderness in recognition of its extraordinary natural ecosystems and for the permanent good of present and future generations of Americans. (Markey, introduced and referred to committee)

Future Events                      



Arctic Frontiers, January 20-25, 2013. (Tromso, Norway). Arctic Frontiers is organised as an independent network and a leading meeting place for pan-arctic issues. The network was established in 2006 and later extended. Arctic Frontiers will host the conference to consider three main scientific topics. Geopolitics in a Changing Arctic; Marine Harvesting in the Arctic; and Arctic Marine Productivity. 


Alaska Marine Science Symposium, January 21-25, 2013, Anchorage. Since 2002, scientists from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond have come to the Symposium to communicate research activities in the marine regions off Alaska. Researchers and students in marine science re-connect with old colleagues and meet new ones. Plenary and poster sessions feature a broad spectrum of ocean science. Hear the latest in the fields of climate, oceanography, lower trophic levels, the benthos, fishes and invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, local and traditional knowledge, and socioeconomic research. The Symposium also features compelling keynote speakers, workshops and special sessions.


Development of a 5-Year Strategic Plan for Oil Spill Research in Canadian Arctic Waters, January 28-29, 2013, Calgary. This workshop is sponsored by the Environmental Studies Research Fund (ESRF), a research program which sponsors environmental and social studies pertaining petroleum exploration, development, and production activities on frontier lands. The ESRF is directed by a joint government, industry and public management board and is administered by the secretariat, which resides in the Office of Energy Research and Development, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. The workshop is held in an effort to produce a 5-year strategic plan for oil spill research in Canadian Arctic marine waters.


Alaska Forum on the Environment, February 4-8, 2013, Anchorage. Hosted by The Alaska Forum, Inc. the 2013 Alaska Forum on the Environment will follow up on previous forums by offering training and information, includes plenary sessions, on: climate change, emergency response, environmental regulations, fish and wildlife populations, rural issues, energy, military issues, business issues, solid waste, contaminants, contaminated site cleanup, mining and others.  For 2013, the forum will expand forum content to provide information to help better understand issues surrounding coastal communities. This will include tsunami impacts, marine debris, and coastal erosion.


The Economist's "Arctic Summit: A New Vista for Trade Energy and the Environment," March 12, 2013. (Oslo, Norway) The event is hosted by The Economist. The Arctic Summit will discuss big issues concerning the region: chase for natural resources, impact of climate change, emergence of new trading routes and the need for responsible governance. The summit has been designed to focus attention and to promote constructive thinking prior to the next Arctic Council Ministers' meeting in 2013. A high-level group of 150 policy-makers, CEOs and influential commentators will spend a day tackling the issues at the heart of the Arctic's future, in discussions led by James Astill, environment editor of The Economist and author of the special report on the Arctic.


Wakefield28th Wakefield Symposium: Responses of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change, March 26-29, 2013, Anchorage. This symposium seeks to advance our understanding of responses of arctic marine ecosystems to climate change at all trophic levels, by documenting and forecasting changes in environmental processes

and species responses to those changes. Presentations will focus on collaborative approaches to understanding and managing living marine resources in a changing Arctic, and to managing human responses to changing arctic marine ecosystems. Hosted by Alaska Sea Grant and sponsors. 


Arctic Science Summit Week, April 13-19, 2013. Krakow, Poland. The ASSW is the annual gathering of international organizations engaged in supporting and facilitating Arctic research. Its purpose is to provide opportunities for international coordination, collaboration and cooperation in all fields of Arctic science and to combine science and management meetings. Side meetings organized by groups with interest in the Arctic science and policy will also be held within the week.
One of them is already planned: The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) will offer a one-day career development workshop during the ASSW 2013. Details will be published closer to the event:


American Polar Society 75th Anniversary, April 15-18, 2013, Woods Hole, MA. The American Polar Society will hold a meeting and symposium at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This meeting and symposium is titled "The Polar Regions in the 21st Century: Globalization, Climate Change and Geopolitics."


Arctic Observing Summit 2013, April 30- May 2, 2013, Vancouver, BC, CA. The Arctic Observing Summit is led by the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC). It is a Sustaining Arctic Observing Network (SAON) task and part of the broader SAON implementation process, which is led by the Arctic Council jointly with the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). AOS is a high-level, biennial summit that aims to provide community-driven, science-based guidance for the design, implementation, coordination and sustained long term (decades) operation of an international network of arctic observing systems. The AOS will provide a platform to address urgent and broadly recognized needs of arctic observing across all components of the arctic system, including the human component. It will foster international communication and coordination of long-term observations aimed at improving understanding and responding to system-scale arctic change. The AOS will be an international forum for optimizing resource allocation through coordination and exchange among researchers, funding agencies, and others involved or interested in long term observing activities, while minimizing duplication and gaps.


International Conference on Arctic Ocean Acidification, May 6-8, 2013, Bergen, Norway. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, and the University of British Columbia, Canada, host a conference to consider Arctic Ocean acidification. Topics will include response of Arctic Ocean to increasing CO2 and related changes in the global carbon cycle, social and policy challenges, Arctic Ocean acidification and ecological and biogeochemical coupling, implications of changing Arctic Ocean acidification for northern (commercial and subsistence) fisheries, and future developments.


AGU Science Policy Conference, June 24-26, 2013. (Washington, DC) Hundreds of Earth and space scientists, students, policymakers, and industry professionals will discuss key Earth and space science topics that address challenges to our economy, national security, environment, and public safety. This meeting will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers' decisions related to energy, natural hazards, technology and infrastructure, climate, oceans, and the Arctic. The event is hosted by American Geophysical Union (AGU), a Washington, D. C.-based international nonprofit scientific association. 

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