Arctic Update Header
October 17, 2013

Yesterday, the House and Senate passed legislation to fund government operations into January. The same legislation also increased the debt ceiling. The House and Senate will hold sessions today.


International Forum on Polar Data Activities in Global Data Systems, October 15-16, 2013 (Tokyo, Japan). "The Forum will cover topics on effective polar data management, including submission of metadata and data, sharing of data to facilitate new interdisciplinary science, and long-term preservation and stewardship of data from a global viewpoint. Presentations on the successes and challenges encountered during IPY will highlight not only the best practices learned but also what must yet be done to ensure the data legacy of IPY. 

Presenters from all scientific disciplines are welcome, and interdisciplinary data management topics are 
especially encouraged. A significant outcome of the Forum will be the development of a new strategy and structure for the Arctic Data Coordination Network under the auspices of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Network (SAON), IASC, and the Arctic Council. Fruitful discussions between the polar data community (SC-ADM, NADC, and SAON) and WDS-oriented contributors on data management issues are expected to give new horizons on data management and to forge interdisciplinary relationships. In particular, a new plan for polar data archives, such as PIC cloud, is expected to be sufficiently promoted."


Draft Agenda 





Shutdown News


budget Federal Employees Are Headed Back to Work on Thursday. President Obama late Wednesday was expected to sign into law a bill that reopens the federal government and suspends the debt limit until February 2014. The legislation - which passed the Senate 81-18 and the House 285-144 - would fund the government through Jan. 15, and suspend the debt limit through Feb. 7. It funds most agencies at fiscal 2013 post-sequestration levels, and will allow the Treasury secretary to continue taking extraordinary measures to meet the country's financial obligations. Such measures often include halting daily reinvestment of the government securities (G) fund in the Thrift Savings Plan. Government Executive


Shutdown's Science Fallout Could Last for Years. The government may finally be on a path to reopening, but the shutdown's effects will linger for scientists studying everything from climate change to cancer. Antarctica-bound field researchers stuck in limbo over the past three weeks fret that decades of data on penguins and ice sheets will end up with a glaring gap, undercutting their documentation of global warming. Doctors operating federal-funded clinical studies on Alzheimer's, cocaine addiction and heart disease worry they've lost the trust of patients. Politico



Oil and Gas Development


Moving Shale Oil Across Melting Tundra: Huge and Potentially Risky Business. When the sun shines directly on the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR), the tracks can expand, warp and buckle. Trains have to slow down to 9 miles an hour or even stop. Journeys can be delayed for hours. At the northern end of the rail line sits the Port of Churchill. It has been barely used over the years and is accumulating rust and leaking oil from its tank farm while the vast, icy expanse of Hudson Bay slowly melts in the background. E&E News 


shell Shell's Spill-Response Training in Remote Alaska Villages a First Step for New Company. An impoverished group of Northwest Alaska villages whose residents hunt walrus and seals to survive have banded together to form a corporation to capitalize on an economic boom on the U.S. side of the Arctic, should that day ever come. Most importantly, the fledgling Bering Sea Alliance wants villagers involved in whatever development occurs so it's done responsibly. That includes being trained to respond to a spill, an increasing possibility with growing numbers of freighters steaming through the 50-mile-wide Bering Strait, gateway to the Arctic Ocean that the seven villages call home. Alaska Dispatch


UK Aims to Become Hub for Arctic Oil Exploration. The government wants the UK to be a global centre of expertise in opening up the Arctic to exploration by oil and gas companies, promoting London as a hub of business services for the burgeoning exploitation of the polar regions, according to a Foreign Office strategy published on Thursday. The green light is likely to enrage conservationists, as a group of Greenpeace activists and journalists have been imprisoned in Russia after protesting against fossil fuel exploration in the region. The Guardian


russian flag Russia Sees Wrangel Island Oil and Gas Potential; Greenpeace Eyes an Eastern Arctic Front. A remote island off northeast Russia has been swept into that nation's campaign to capitalize on the Arctic's potential for untold oil and gas resources. Long a safe haven for an immense variety of Arctic species, the island hosted the last woolly mammoths to ever walk the earth. The idea that the area could be opened to oil exploration has environmentalists up in arms. The Great Pyramid of Giza and the monolithic monument Stonehenge were already hundreds of years old when woolly mammoths last trod Russia's Wrangel Island. Bone and fossil discoveries show that mammoths persisted there until as recently as 3,700 years ago, taking refuge on the island in a watery, warmer post-Ice Age world. Alaska Dispatch


Oil Spill Detection Test in 'Operation Arctic Shield.' Operating aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the team deployed a variety of technologies that have been evaluated in temperate climates to assess their ability to perform operations under Arctic conditions. The tests included operation of two small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), a vessel of opportunity skimmer system (VOSS) and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Testing began 9 September 2013, when Healy crew members and the research team deployed two hand-launched UAS. Both UAS demonstrated greater than expected endurance in the cold temperatures, staying aloft for nearly two hours, providing the research team an extended opportunity to evaluate operational capabilities. Hydro International


Arctic Shipping


600-Foot Dock Slated for Dutch Harbor Will Serve Arctic Petroleum Explorers. Another big industrial development project took a step forward last month, when the Unalaska Planning Commission subdivided a tidelands tract to allow for the eventual construction of a 600-foot-long dock and a large warehouse. The site is adjacent to the property of the applicant, Offshore Systems Inc., next to Northland Services' barge and container yard, and a unique dock that serves as the local home of Shell's oil rig Kulluk. Both the Northland shipping container yard and the oil support site are located on tidelands previously filled in with dumptruck loads of gravel. Alaska Dispatch


Cool Arctic Science Helps Ease Northwest Passage. In the storied Canadian North, the landscape is littered with crushed ships and frozen men who dreamed of navigating an Atlantic-to-Pacific route at the top of the world, but fell victim to an unforgiving icy grip that holds fast most every year. But scientists say they can now predict the date when Canada's legendary and deadly Northwest Passage will freeze, providing information that could have a major impact on folks who rely on the Arctic shipping route. The Chronicle Herald 



Arctic Fish and Wildlife


Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists. Across North America - in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota - moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. New York Times


caribou Canada, U.S. Meet to Discuss Caribou Herd. Members of the International Porcupine Caribou Board met last month in Dawson City, Yukon, to discuss the health and future of North America's fifth largest migratory caribou herd. "Obviously we're very pleased that the herd is in good shape," said Barry Smith, the regional director of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region, from British Columbia last week. "And that we're able to conduct the science to assess the herd like we have in the last two years; that's an important achievement." The Arctic Sounder


Counting Elusive Finnish Forest Reindeer in Russian Karelia. Finnish and Russian researchers are teaming up for the first comprehensive population study of the rare Finnish forest reindeer. This threatened reindeer subspecies (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) is found in eastern Finland and northwest Russia. Unlike their smaller, semi-domesticated cousins, the northern reindeer, the forest variety prefers thick woodlands - where they are rarely seen by humans. They wander freely back and forth across the long Russo-Finnish border on a seasonal basis. Alaska Dispatch


Opinion: The Washington Post is Wrong About Farmed Salmon. Today the Washington Post ran an article in their Food section lauding advances in the salmon farming industry. Their message? Farmed salmon are a good choice. We're here to set the record straight: farmed salmon are not a sustainable seafood choice, and they're not good for the oceans. If you want to be a responsible seafood eater, therefore, you should not eat farmed salmon. Oceana


Wolves More and More Grizzlies and Wolves Moving North to High Arctic. Occasional grizzly bear sightings have been made in the high Arctic for several decades. But what has been a very rare occurrence in the past, is now becoming more common. Polar bears have long posed threats to far northern communities but now that concern is greater because of increasing numbers of grizzlies as well. Some believe that global warming may play a role in the marked increase in grizzlies moving northward.  Typically, they are not as well adapted to the cold as polar bears. There have even been recent cases of hybrid "Grolar" bears, as male grizzlies go out onto the ice pack and mate with female polar bears. Alaska Dispatch


Atlantic Rock Crab Increasing Off Iceland. The presence of Atlantic rock crab in the waters off West Iceland has increased in recent years. The only local company currently involved in commercial fishing of the crab is start-up Arctic Seafood. The crab is mostly sold domestically. Dav?? Freyr J?nsson, who runs Arctic Seafood, told that rock crab fishing can become a profitable industry in Iceland but funding for the processing is required. Fishing is still in the experimental stages. Iceland Review


Save the Whales? Inuit Whalers Wary of Whaling Commission Quotas. On the rocky shore of a quiet inlet whose local name translates to The Place Where We Used to Hunt in the Springtime, Inuit men with long knives butcher a whale corpse. An hour earlier, a team of hunters in five two-man boats had surrounded the minke whale in this icy fjord off Greenland's east coast and shot it with rifles. They tied the animal to a boat and dragged it to the inlet. A call went out on the radio - anyone who'd come help with butchering could take home a cut of the meat. The whale steams when cut open in the chilly evening air. Working quickly but methodically, a dozen men peel back the skin and carve out basketball-sized cubes of meat, each heavy enough that a single man strains to lift it. Bullets plucked from the carcass are flicked onto the rocks. Alaska Dispatch


Qikiqtarjuaq Fishery Shows Promise in Northern Canada. The Arctic Fishery Alliance's attempt to establish a turbot fishery in Qikiqtarjuaq, a community of about 500 people in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, is showing signs of promise. The group, made up of the hunters and trappers organizations of Qikiqtarjuaq, and the communities of Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay and Resolute, has sent up a ship, the Atlantic Prospect, on a mission to test out the viability of any such fishery there. Alaska Dispatch


Arctic Environment and the Ecosystem


Tipping Point for Polar Ice Cap May Have Come in 2012. This year may have granted a slight reprieve for vanishing Arctic sea ice, but evidence gathered to date shows that summer shrinkage will likely continue its downward spiral in future years, according to a new paper published in the Oct. 4 edition of the journal Geography Compass.  The paper, by Kent State University doctoral candidate Thomas Ballinger and Jeffrey Rogers, a geography professor at Ohio State University, synthesizes information about weather, ocean currents and ice conditions in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas between 2007 through 2012, a six-year period of severe melt. Conditions in those seas appear to have changed for good, the paper says. Alaska Dispatch


clouds.jpg Cloud of (Slightly Less) Unknowing. Researchers are beginning to understand aerosols and clouds better. The result is to lower estimates of how much they cool the climate. Clouds and aerosols have long been two of the more mysterious forces in the climate. They sometimes warm and sometimes cool the Earth. The net effect, it was thought, was that they offset part of the overall warming trend, which would have been greater had it not been for their influence. But the details were obscure. Economist


Climate Change Concerns Loom at Arctic Conference. As the inaugural Arctic Circle conference got officially underway here Saturday, a specter loomed over the proceedings. The conference, which brings together policymakers, business leaders, researchers from across the world to discuss issues important to the Arctic, convened with messages from dignitaries of Iceland, Greenland, the United States, United Nations, Canada and Russia, and all of them shared a concern -- the outsized impact of climate change in the Arctic and what it means for far northern populations going forward. Alaska Dispatch


Canada, US to Benefit From International Treaty on Mercury Reduction. Canada has signed a global treaty to reduce mercury emissions, and it may find itself as the single largest beneficiary. The federal government estimates that while Canada has reduced its own mercury emissions by some 90 per cent over the last 40 years, as much as 95 per cent of mercury and its related compounds that continue to be deposited in Canada come from foreign sources. The primary victim is Canada's Arctic region. HazMat Management Magazine


Permafrost Data Helps City in Northwest Territories Plan Road Repairs. Permafrost data collected by Natural Resources Canada could help the city of Yellowknife in Canada's Northwest Territories plan for road repair. Warming air temperatures mean the permafrost under parts of Yellowknife are slowly melting. Federal agencies such as The Geological Survey of Canada started monitoring conditions in 2010 using satellite radar. Alaska Dispatch


James J. McCarthy: Big Picture: Earth is Getting Hotter. What is it about the hottest decade in recorded history that's so hard to understand? The first decade of this millennium - 2001 to 2010 - was the warmest since measurements began 160 years ago. The earlier hottest decade was during the 1990s. And the record-breaker before that? The 1980s. These are undisputed facts. Nothing about this steady rise suggests our planet is doing anything but warming. Yet some people who have long resisted the consistency of this trend are now saying that climate change has "paused." In doing so, they ignore the longer trend, miss the big picture, and distort the public conversation about the strength of the evidence for climate change. Providence Journal


Arctic Human Health


Suffering Exposed: Alaska's Women Speak Up About Violence, Abuse. The numbers Andre Rosay and his team of researchers crunch, analyze and make sense of are predictably consistent: In Alaska, in all corners of the state, one out of every two women has suffered either domestic or sexual violence in her lifetime. Many have been harmed recently, within the last year. As director of the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Rosay has led the effort to better understand just how many women in Alaska are experiencing violence, to create a more accurate picture beyond what traditional law enforcement crime statistics reveal. Through random, voluntary phone surveys with adult women in Alaska, Alaska women are sharing the painful details of their private lives, the hurt and violations they've endured, in hopes that others might be spared in the future. Alaska Dispatch


Corner in Northern Canada Says Domestic Violence Deaths Preventable. Chief Coroner Cathy Menard says most of the deaths she sees in Canada's Northwest Territories are somehow related to domestic violence. (CBC) The Chief Coroner of Canada's Northwest Territories says officials missed opportunities to prevent a woman in the community of Tuktoyaktuk from being killed by her spouse. Jenny Pingo was shot by her common-law spouse in December 2011. He killed her and then himself. Alaska Dispatch


Children Huffing Gas Becoming Larger Problem in Canadian Innu Community. Officials in the Innu community of Natuashish, located in the northern region of the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, say they need help to deal with the number of children sniffing gas, and that the situation is getting progressively worse. Innu Chief Simeon Tshakapesh arrived in St. John's, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, on Tuesday to make contact with provincial government officials on the troubling issue. Tshakapesh said he has been spending his nights going through the community and breaking up groups of children sniffing gasoline. Alaska Dispatch



Arctic Technology


Cold Climate Housing Research Center Testing Solar-Powered Water Tank. The Cold Climate Housing Research Center is hoping an unprecedented combination of sun and water will provide the warmth for its new 7,000-square-foot addition. CCHRC, which tests cold-weather building techniques from its location below the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is launching an ambitious project to tap a massive water tank for its heating needs. A school-bus-sized tank was insulated with a thick layer of spray foam on Wednesday and lowered into a deep trench by a crane. The 25,000-gallon drum will be filled with water in the weeks ahead, which will be gradually heated by an array of south-facing solar panels. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


Preserving a Threatened Arctic Historic Site with 3D Imaging Technology. New technology has preserved, in cyber form, some famous high-Arctic structures that have fallen victim to the real-world ravages of time and a warming polar climate. Fort Conger, a collection of century-old structures used by pioneering Arctic explorers, is the subject of a cutting-edge 3D imagery project led by Peter Dawson, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Calgary. The weather-battered buildings were erected on northeastern Ellesmere Island, one of the planet's northernmost spots of land and a base camp of sorts for Robert Peary and other Arctic pioneers. The computer images created by the project provide detailed views of a site that few people will ever see. Alaska Dispatch



Arctic Governance


With Arctic Council Chairmanship Looming for US, Alaska Irons Out Far North Policy. As the final day of the first-ever international Arctic Circle conference played out here, issues remained largely global, with topics covering international cooperation in the Arctic, the plight of indigenous peoples living in the rapidly-changing region and the interests of non-Arctic countries in the economically-growing region. But for about two hours in a small room on the first floor of the Harpa concert hall in Iceland's capital, it was all about Alaska. A group of Alaska senators and representatives, along with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and other influential Alaskans, gathered to discuss the state's role in the Arctic going forward as the federal government simultaneously develops its plans for the region. Alaska Dispatch


Arctic Conference in India Examines Asia-Arctic Connections. "It's so far, but so very near to us now." This is what Dr. Uttam Kumar Sinha observed during the opening of the AsiArctic conference at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, India last week. India received observer status in the Arctic Council in May of this year, along with four other Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. Yet India has managed to stay under the Arctic radar. Whereas China and Korea's icebreakers have sailed into world headlines, Indian naval exercises with Russia in Murmansk arouse little consternation. India -- the farthest of all the Asian observers in the Arctic Council from the Arctic -- may not be able to reap immediate benefits from using the Northern Sea Route like Korea, Japan, and China. Hydrocarbons, particularly liquefied natural gas, are so far not as great of a lure for the country, which gets most of its oil and gas from countries in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Thus, India, perhaps more so than any of the other Asian countries interested in the Arctic, is involved in the region first and foremost for science and research. Alaska Dispatch


Mayor Reflects on Challenges Facing North Slope Borough. Brower said overall, one of the biggest challenges she and her right-hand-man Jacob Adams faced on taking office was reviewing all the contracts and policies - but that job is now largely done, she said. Other topics arise instead, like job development, infrastructure development and the ever-ominous changes presented by the melting sea ice and climate change so prevalent in the Arctic. Brower recently testified before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, telling Washington about the ships pulling up off her coast unannounced and asking to dock at her port. Barrow doesn't have a port. It doesn't have enough beds to house the large groups of foreign travelers coming north now that ice is receding for longer periods and adventures to the Arctic are gaining in popularity. All that presents quite a challenge for the North Slope Borough. Alaska Dispatch


Fairbanks Hosts Officials Ahead of the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Representatives from five nations will be in Fairbanks this week to get updates on the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Those attending represent the Arctic Winter Games International Committee and Chefs de Mission. They will come from Alaska, Greenland, Russia, Sweden and five Canadian territories. TribTown


Angela Merkel Pressures Putin Over Arctic 30 Arrests. The detention of Greenpeace activists needs a swift resolution, the German chancellor told the Russian president in a phone call German chancellor Angela Merkel told Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday of her concerns over the arrest of Greenpeace activists after an Arctic drilling protest, and urged a swift resolution of the case. The Guardian


The Queen of S?pmi. The new president of the Norwegian S?mi Parliament, Aili Keskitalo, promises that cooperation with indigenous peoples in Russia will be a top priority. "We have an important role to play internationally," says Keskitalo to Barents Observer. "Especially in Russia where we have sisters and brothers," she adds.  Barents Observer


Interview: How Might a US-Canada Merger Serve the Greater Arctic Good? Canada and the United States have a reputation for being among the world's friendliest neighbors. They share a common language, a common culture and what's regularly touted as the longest undefended border in the world. The Free Trade Agreement between the two nations in 1987 created even stronger economic links. But American-Canadian columnist Diane Francis, one of Canada's best known and most provocative business writers, says that Canada and the U.S. haven't gone far enough. Alaska Dispatch



General Science


Who's Afraid of Peer Review? On 4 July, good news arrived in the inbox of Ocorrafoo Cobange, a biologist at the Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara. It was the official letter of acceptance for a paper he had submitted 2 months earlier to the Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals, describing the anticancer properties of a chemical that Cobange had extracted from a lichen. In fact, it should have been promptly rejected. Any reviewer with more than a high-school knowledge of chemistry and the ability to understand a basic data plot should have spotted the paper's short-comings immediately. Its experiments are so hopelessly flawed that the results are meaningless. I know because I wrote the paper. Ocorrafoo Cobange does not exist, nor does the Wassee Institute of Medicine. Over the past 10 months, I have submitted 304 versions of the wonder drug paper to open-access journals. More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws. Beyond that headline result, the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing. Science Mag

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


H.R. 2775, Continuing Appropriations Act. (Signed by the President)

H.J.Res. 80, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Indian Health Service Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014. (Representative Simpson-placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar)

S. 1574, To amend the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 to facilitate the ability of Indian tribes to integrate the employment, training, and related services from diverse Federal sources, and for other purposes. (Senator Murkowski-introduced and referred to committee) 

Future Events


The 2nd Forum for Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS Workshop) "School for Young Arctic Researchers," and "Arctic Scientists Workshop," October 21-25 2013 (Woods Hole, MA). "The Forum for Arctic Ocean Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS) is an international effort to focus on enhancing collaboration and coordination among arctic marine and sea ice modelers, theoreticians, and observationalists. This collaboration is based on a set of activities starting from generating hypotheses, to planning research including both observations and modeling, and to finalizing analyses synthesizing major results from the field studies and coordinated numerical experiments.  


The major themes of this year's workshop include, but are not limited by studies focused on:

  • Sea ice conditions (drift, thickness and concentration)
  • Atmospheric conditions and circulation regimes
  • Circulation of surface, Pacific and Atlantic water layers
  • State and future of freshwater and heat content
  • Horizontal and vertical mixing
  • Process studies and parameterizations
  • Model validation and calibration
  • Numerical improvements and algorithms
  • Ecosystems, biological issues, and geochemistry"

More info is available at the project's website: 


17th Sitka WhaleFest: "Arctic Sea Change: What's Ahead?" October 31 - November 3, 2013, (Sitka, Alaska).
 "Sitka WhaleFest presents a unique science symposium blending local knowledge and scientific inquiry concerning the rich marine environment of our northern oceans. Surrounded by community and cultural activities, the weekend events include symposium lectures, interactive student sessions, marine wildlife cruises with scientists, a marine-themed artisan market, music, local foods, student art show, and a fun run/walk."


"The Arctic is changing. This is an indisputable fact. How the people and animals who depend upon the Arctic will adapt to change is an open question. How will narwhals and polar bears cope with less summer ice? Bowhead whales may have their world rocked when humpbacks, fins and other baleen whales begin - they already are - feeding in their backyard. The resource users of the Arctic will need to make adjustments and changes to live in this new world. Who will be the sea winners and sea losers? These are questions we will discuss with the experts who are passionate about the Arctic."

Workshop: Community Oil Spill Response in Bering and Anadyr Straits, November 7-8, 2013 (Anchorage, Alaska). "This workshop will bring together diverse stakeholders to learn more about and respond to community desires to be part of oil spill first-response efforts that help protect food security and other local resources; come to agreement on the multiple roles local community members can play in responding to oil spills; and create an action plan for moving forward on this topic. The workshop is sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society." 


Maritime & Arctic Security Conference (MAS13), November 12-13, 2013 (St. John's, NL, Canada). "For decades the Arctic has received increasing attention from the international community related to factors/considerations such as environmental, geopolitical, strategic, and security. More recently with shrinking Arctic ice leading to the pursuance of off-shore resources and the

opening of northern shipping routes, over a relatively short period of time we are seeing maritime security considerations start to blend with arctic security." 


"With a focus on Economic Development, Security and Public Safety, MAS13 will bring together organizations that play a key role in the execution of Maritime & Arctic Security: whether that role be Cultural, Research, Government Policy/Regulation, Education, Surveillance, Enforcement, and Technology Development/Application." 


Full Conference Agenda 

Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge Request for Proposals Released August 15.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Village Safe Water announces a research and development effort to seek better and more affordable methods to deliver