January 3, 2013
There's at least a tiny bit of good news in the grounding of an oil rig in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska: As of midday Wednesday, the Kulluk, which ran aground near Kodiak Island, didn't appear to be leaking fuel, thanks to its double hull of 3-inch-thick steel. We've learned some things about oil and safety since the Exxon Valdez. But the overwhelming lesson of the Kulluk, which broke free of boats trying to tow it to Seattle after its first season in the Beaufort Sea, is that for all the precautions taken by Royal Dutch Shell, neither the company's executives nor federal regulators were fully prepared for the hazardous conditions in the Arctic.
December 28, 2012 |
First came the polar bear. Now, the federal government has added two other marine mammals to the list of creatures threatened with extinction because of vanishing sea ice in a warming Arctic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has officially listed bearded seal and the ringed seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The reason is not inadequate supplies of fish and other food for these seals, or excessive hunting by humans. It's the loss of their sea ice habitat.
December 27, 2012 |
SEATTLE -- A drilling rig that launched landmark exploratory oil operations in the Chukchi Sea Arctic this summer has been cited by the U.S. Coast Guard for serious “discrepancies” in its safety and pollution discharge equipment, the latest in a series of vessel problems that have plagued Royal Dutch Shell's foray into the Alaskan Arctic. The Noble Corp., owner of the 47-year-old Discoverer, disclosed Thursday it discovered additional deficiencies in its own inspections, including the possibility of unauthorized collected water discharges outside the allowable period for drilling operations.
December 12, 2012 |
Desperately seeking reindeer? Long after the Christmas season has ended, Travcoa leads a March tour of Finland and Sweden to see the real animals in their native Lapland. Participants on the 15-day Scandinavian trip meet the Sami, the indigenous people who herd reindeer, and learn some of their traditions by celebrating St. Maria's Day with them. Excursions via snowmobile, dog sled and even reindeer-pulled sleighs explore the arctic landscape. Highlights include crossing the Arctic Circle, spending a night in the famed Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, viewing the northern lights too touring Helsinki, where the trip begins, and Stockholm, where it ends.
December 10, 2012 |
Ferrying a load of soybeans from Seattle to China in 2004, the engine of Malaysian freighter Selendang Ayu lost power and the vessel broke in half on rocks off Unalaska Island in the middle of the Alaskan archipelago. A ferocious Bering Sea storm thwarted rescue efforts, resulting in the loss of six crew members, and the vessel spilled 350,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The oozing fuel killed thousands of seabirds, closed local fishing and contaminated miles of shoreline -- all inside the sensitive habitat of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
December 5, 2012 |
A fast-changing Arctic broke new records for loss of sea ice and spring snow cover this year, as well as the extent of the summertime melt of the Greenland ice sheet, federal scientists reported Wednesday. The latest report about the melting Arctic comes as frustrations flared in Doha, Qatar, over the slow progress at United Nations climate talks to reach a global agreement on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The buildup of the gases is elevating average global temperatures, with the most pronounced changes in the northernmost latitudes.
December 5, 2012 |
A fast-changing Arctic broke records for loss of sea ice and spring snow cover this year, as well as summertime melt of the Greenland ice sheet, federal scientists reported Wednesday. “The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world,” said Jane Lubchenco , administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As it warms, she said, “we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation.” Speaking at the fall meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Lubchenco and other scientists unveiled the annual update of the Arctic Report Card , a collaboration of more than 140 scientists that summarizes ways the Arctic continues to grow warmer and greener.
November 29, 2012 |
Think of broccoli that you've got in the freezer. As long as it's frozen, it will remain stable for years. As soon as you pull it out, it'll go mushy and soon begin to unleash the stench of decay. That's one way Kevin Schaefer likes to describe what's happening to all the leaves and roots and other plant material locked in the frozen soils of the arctic tundra and forests since the last Ice Age. As the planet warms, this permafrost is thawing, releasing huge amounts of carbon and methane, Schaefer explains in a new report.
November 16, 2012 |
In the final presidential debate, when explaining why the Navy has fewer ships than in 1916, President Obama famously quipped that the United States also has "fewer horses and bayonets," setting off a debate over quality versus quantity. In the Arctic - an increasingly important part of the world - the situation is simpler. When it comes to patrolling and securing the Arctic, the United States has neither quality nor quantity. The rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice is opening up previously unnavigable areas to shipping and drilling.
November 9, 2012 |
It's not just Sandy. Sandy was off-the-charts terrible, a storm that broke every record in the books: for storm surge, for barometric pressure, for sheer size. But it also blew in toward the end of what will be the warmest year in U.S. history. It was a year that already had seen a summer-in-March heat wave described by meteorologists as the most statistically freakish weather event in the continent's history, an epic drought that raised grain prices 40% around the world and a record-setting melt of Arctic ice. It was a year in which scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who couldn't take the subway to their Manhattan offices in the days following Sandy, calculated that the 1-degree rise in global temperature we've already seen has raised the chance of extreme heat events by an order of magnitude.