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 28, 2012 |
If the prospect of coastal cities sinking into the sea 100 years from now does not motivate Americans to do something dramatic to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, there is something happening at this very moment that should be setting off sirens. Rising CO2 levels are making the oceans more acidic and that change in the chemistry of the seas is disrupting the food chain that ends with you and me. For years, as scientists watched the carbon emissions from our tailpipes and smokestacks spew into the sky and goose temperatures higher, there was one mitigating factor that was keeping a brake on global warming: The oceans were absorbing a whole lot of that CO2. Now, though, it turns out that is not such a blessing.
October 5, 2012 |
Faced with growing concerns about the hunting of polar bears in Canada, the Obama administration announced Friday it will again support a ban on the commercial trade of polar bears, whose hides fetch up to $16,000 each on the international market. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a position paper that advocates including the polar bear on the list of species that are subject to the most stringent constraints on international trade. The effect of such a move, if adopted by the 176-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora when it meets in March, would be to prohibit the sale of polar bear furs, claws, teeth and other body parts outside of Canada. Hunts by aboriginal Inuits in Alaska and other polar states would still be allowed, but outside sale of the pelts would not. This post has been updated as indicated below [Updated 5:38 p.m., Oct. 5, 2012: “Certain types of items, such as hunting trophies, live animals for zoological parks, and specimens for scientific research are generally considered by CITES to be primarily non-commercial,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
September 13, 2012 |
Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate much faster than scientists ever predicted and its collapse, due to global warming, may well cause extreme weather this winter in North America and Europe, according to climate scientists. Last month, researchers announced that Arctic sea ice had dwindled to the smallest size ever observed by man, covering almost half the area it did 30 years ago, when satellites and submarines first began measuring it. While the loss of summer sea ice is likely to open up new shipping lanes and may connect the West Coast of the United States to the Far East via a trans-polar route, researchers say it will also affect weather patterns and Arctic wildlife.
September 10, 2012 |
Only a day after Shell Alaska began drilling a landmark offshore oil well in the Arctic, the company was forced on Monday to pull off the well in the face of an approaching ice pack. With the ice floe about 10 miles away, the Noble Discoverer drilling rig was disconnecting from its seafloor anchor Monday afternoon in the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles from the northwest coast of Alaska. Company ice trackers had been carefully monitoring ocean ice and, when the wind direction changed and the ice floe began moving closer, they advised that the rig shut down and disconnect from the well, Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh told the Los Angeles Times.
September 3, 2012 |
Warming global temperatures and melting polar ice caps have helped a trio of explorers go where few men have gone before. In an account of their voyage posted Monday, the crew of the 31-foot Belzebub II - a fiberglass sailboat with a living space the size of a bathroom - described how they crossed through the M'Clure Strait in northern Canada, a decreasingly ice-packed route through the famed Northwest Passage. The international three-man crew - an American, Canadian and Swede - claim to have piloted the first sailboat to do so. The route is named after 19th century British explorer Robert McClure, the first person to cross the elusive Arctic passage that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, an arduous, frosty trek that nearly killed his men. But last week, scientists said the area of floating sea ice in the Arctic had fallen to the lowest level ever observed.
August 27, 2012 |
The area of floating sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to its lowest size ever observed, researchers said Monday. Moreover, the ice is still shrinking and is not expected to reach its minimum until sometime in September. The average shrinkage of the ice has been increasing steadily since 2007, and researchers attribute the loss to global warming, which is causing warmer temperatures in the region. On Monday, the extent of the Arctic sea ice was 1.58 million miles, which is 27,000 square miles below the previous record set on Sept.
August 27, 2012 |
BARROW, Alaska - Here at the top of the world, the news that Arctic sea ice has reached a new low - the smallest footprint since satellites began measuring it three decades ago - is not much of a surprise. The Arctic seas off the Alaska coast have been increasingly ice-free in recent years. On Monday, the gray, wind-driven surf churned vigorously along the northern coast, with no sign of ice anywhere under the low, fog-shrouded skies. But it has been a strange summer here. Until a few weeks ago, there was more ice spread across the near-shore waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas than anyone can remember for the last several years - a curse for the engineers waiting to begin plumbing oil wells into the sea floor, but a blessing for Inupiat hunters, who have had an unusually easy time catching seals from ice floes close to home.
August 26, 2012 |
GIRDWOOD, Alaska - With its bid to launch offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean running up against a deadline to protect against sea ice, Shell Alaska has requested an extension in its window for drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Peter E. Slaiby, vice president of the Alaska venture, said Sunday that the company has proposed extending the time allowed for drilling in the Chukchi by slightly less than two weeks beyond the Sept. 24 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Interior to allow time for cleanup of any oil spill before the onset of winter sea ice. Meeting with reporters at an Arctic Imperative Summit here, Slaiby said the company's latest models for forecasting the onset of winter sea ice now show the first freeze-up occurring somewhat later than originally envisioned when federal officials imposed their initial deadline for ending operations in the Chukchi Sea. Drilling in the Beaufort Sea, closer to shore, already is allowed through Oct. 31. A deadline extension is important for Shell, which has spent more than $4.5 billion on preparing to drill its first exploratory wells off the coast of Alaska in more than 20 years.
July 5, 2012 |
SEATTLE - 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.