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Arctic Portal News Portlet

7 September 2011

icebergIcebergs are a huge problem in the Arctic. In short, they can be in the way! Vessels are scared of these sometimes huge and unpredictable blocks of ice.

Add that only 1/10th of the icebergs are visible above water, they can be a huge hazard in Arctic Sailing.

Oil giant Gazprom has now developed a way to use boiled water to melt the icebergs. They would melt anyway but to speed up the process might help, especially ships that are not strengthened for sailing in ice.

The method includes the use of helicopters to cover an approaching iceberg with a water-proof coat and the subsequent injection of hot water.

Gazprom knows the problem well so there is no wonder the company researched ways to help their vessels in ice layed waters.

2 September 2011

olafurragnarArctic Portal broadcasted the 6th NRF Open Assembly this weekend. Shortly the presentations and discussion will be available here on the Arctic Portal website. Pictures and videos will also be uploaded shortly.
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On Sunday the 4th of September and Monday the 5th the Assembly will be held.

It´s title is Our Ice Dependent World.

A host of excellent hosts will hold sessions, beginning with opening words from amongst others the president of Iceland, Mr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Kupik Kleist, the Premier of Greenland.

Professor Lonnie Thompson from the School of Earth Science will present in the session about Implications of the Ice Melt.

Open discussions will be held after each session.                        Dr. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of Iceland.

The Assemblies program schedule can be found here.

The live broadcast is on the Arctic Portal website, on the front page downwards and to the left.

31 August 2011

arkhangelskThe University of the Arctic has opened a research center in Russian city Arkhangelsk.

The Northern Arctic Federal University (NArFU) is seen as a critical step in creating a collective capacity for UArctic members to coordinate northern research, says UArctic president Lars Kullerud.

The office will strengthen both the University and Russia. Kullerud notes that many UArctic members in the North are perceived as smaller actors, and risk being marginalized by larger institutions from outside the region when it comes to high level research projects.

The new office will help to promote the collective capacity of these members and strengthen the role of northern institutions in Arctic research.

The Research Office will be officially opened during the Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk organized by the Russian Geographical Society The Research Office will first host a small seminar the previous day with UArctic and key external partners to discuss
potential opportunities.

UArctic

30 August 2011

nrflogoThe 6th NRF Open Assembly will be held in Hveragerði, Iceland in the beginning of September. From 3rd - 6th of September the theme "Our Ice Dependent World" will be addressed.

Representatives from Canada, USA, Russia, China, India and Nepal are amongst others joining forces to discuss this issue. It regards not only the Arctic and Antarctica, but also the Himalayas.

Arctic Portal will record the Assembly and webcast it on out website.

The overall objective is to address the impact of dwindling ice – terrestrial as well as ocean bound - on the complex interface of nature and society in all climatic zones of the world. In light of the man-made part of climate change, particularly meaning global warming, and the natural phenomena of ice is gradually becoming a concept of global politics – a common heritage of humankind- affecting societal life in quite dramatic ways on a global scale.

This turn in the interrelationship and working of the society/nature interface is the focus of the Assembly requiring two intertwined questions to be addressed:

  • First, what will the economic, industrial, cultural and political consequences of the accelerating global ice melt be in different time spans, i.e. in the short (5-10 years), medium (10-20 years) and long term (20- years)?
  • Second, what economic, industrial, cultural and political possibilities and challenges are facing human kind in light of global ice reductions?

There are also more subthemes which can be seen at the Assemblies website along with more information about the Assembly.

29 August 2011

Denmark has confirmed it will make a claim for the North Pole. Four out of five states around the pole have the right to make these claims and Denmark is the last one in line to do so.

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) oversees territorial claims in the Arctic.

"The Kingdom has submitted documentation to the CLCS for claims relating to two areas near the Faroe Islands and by 2014 plans to submit documentation on three areas near Greenland, including an area north of Greenland which, among others, covers the North Pole," read the Danish Arctic Policy, released last week.

Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the countries have ten years to make their claims to an extended continental shelf. If these claims are confirmed by CLCS, the country will receive exclusive rights to resources on or below the seabed of that extended shelf area.

That means alot can be at stake. Due to this, Norway (1996 ratification), Russia (1997), Canada (2003) and Denmark (2004) launched projects to provide a basis for seabed claims on extended continental shelves beyond their exclusive economic zones.

Canada has not sent its claims, but       Denmarks has or will research these areas to claim the North Pole (from 176.dk).
has time until 2013 to do so.

USA has signed but not ratified the contract. That means they cannot make any territorial claims unless they do so. All four states have now confirmed that claims will be sent (or will be in time), so the over used cliché about the Race to the North Pole is between four countries. That is unless USA ratifies UNCLOS, which it has hinted will happen with Hillarys Clinton words about making that her "priority" (read here).

Look at the Interactive Arctic Portal map to see the Exclusive Economic Zones in the Arctic. Light blue is a territory nobody can claim. Yet.

26 August 2011

The only gas field in the Barents Sea could soon be connected to the mainland. Snøhvit gas field is so promising; Norway could extend its current pipeline system to get the gas on shore, but only if other areas for gas production can be found.

Huge LNG tankers are used to transport the gas to the markets in Europe and USA, but a new pipeline would be a revolution.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says that this is a possibility, but underlines that the need for more areas to be found are crucial.

With Russia also planning to extend its pipeline system, some kind of cooperation between the countries has also been discussed.

Research in the Barents Sea aimed to find gas have been promising in recent years. The cost and time for transport will encourage both Russia and Norway to react
and the pipelines might be a necessity in a few years time.                                     (Snohvit - Picture from StatOil)


LNG tanker, used for gas transport (From BO news)

25 August 2011

A hidden ocean current,discovered far below the sea's surface near Iceland, could be a major player in the ocean's response to climate change. Deep water currents have its say in the matter and this new player could play its role.

Icelandic Scientists Steingrímur Jóhannesson from the University of Akureyri and Héðinn Valdimarsson found the current in the Denmark Strait. Located between Iceland and Greenland, The Denmark Strait is one of the most important stretches of water in the entire world-ocean circulation, according to the scientists.

The 600 mile wide Denmark Strait is the main portal for southbound water. Every second of every day millions of cubic meters of warm water flow north along the British Isles and up the coast of Norway aboard an arm of the Gulf Stream System, treating Western Europe to a far more moderate climate than their latitude deserves.

However, if all that warm water flows north, an equal quantity of cold water must flow south to maintain the circulation—the stability of our climate depends on it.

The new current has changed the accepted theory that said a current flowing down the East Greenland coast delivered most of the water to the strait. Yet the area was, according to the Icelanders, under-measured.

In 2004 they found the current, named it the North Icelandic Jet and in 2008 the current was confirmed by WHOI oceanographer Bob Pickart with extended measurements.

The new theory is that the current supplies fully half the water that exits the strait to form the return-flow current.

The expedition witch set sail from Reykjavík three days ago is looking to confirm this, and continuing to research the possibly vastly important current.

HERE is the webpage of the expedition.

24 August 2011

The call for INTERACT Transnational Access has been extended until 7th of September. The exciting venue offers the opportunity to visit research sites and gain access to information and equipment on site.

The call covers the winter season from October 2011 to April 2012 (with some variation on different sites), and summer season May to September 2012 for stations located in Russian Federation.

This project has a main objective to build capacity for identifying, understanding, predicting and responding to diverse environmental changes throughout the wide environmental and land-use envelopes of the Arctic.

Examples of potential research fields include animal sciences and botany, climate change research and environmental monitoring, ecology, ecosystems and biodiversity, contaminants, geography, geology and related fields, glaciology , limnology, paleolimnology and hydrology and social sciences and humanities.

More information can be found here, and the online application form.

24 August 2011

Denmark has released its Arctic Strategy up to the year 2020. Denmark reins both in Greenland and the Faroe Islands and their interest are numerous in the Arctic.

The Arctic strategy will make it possible for the three parts of the Kingdom to address the challenges in a coordinated way, the strategy report states.

“The purpose of this strategy is to focus attention on the Kingdom’s strategic priorities for future development in the Arctic towards 2020. The aim is to strengthen the Kingdom’s status as global player in the Arctic.”

Denmark aims to strengthen its position in Arctic matters, but underlines close cooperation with its neighbors and partners in the area.

Click HERE to read the Arctic Strategy (PDF)
Click here to read Denmark’s press release in English

23 August 2011

ACouncil_logoThe Arctic Council has released a new report on its webpage. The report is from The Task Force on Short-Lived Climate Forcers.

SLCF (Short-Lived Climate Forcers) are subsets of greenhouse gases and aerosols that alter Earth’s energy balance. Unlike long-lived greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), SLCF´s remain for a much shorter time in the atmosphere.

The task force was established with the 2009 Tromsø Declaration and focused initially on black carbon. SLCF´s also include directly emitted greenhouse gases like methane.

The report states that the largest sources of BC emissions in Arctic Council nations have been identified. Overall, total BC emissions from Arctic Council nations are projected to decrease in the coming decades, primarily due to the effective implementation of transportation-related PM controls.

To maximize climate benefits, the report states that PM control programs must aim to achieve maximum BC reductions. Several mitigation measures have been identified to further reduce major emission source categories.

The task force also claims that additional measurements, research, and analyses are needed to better identify the specific BC mitigation measures—both inside and outside of the Arctic Council nations—that will lead to the largest Arctic climate benefits.

The Task Force has been requested to continue its work on short lived climate forcers and will focus on methane and tropospheric ozone, as well as further black carbon work where necessary and provide a report to the next Ministerial Meeting in 2013.

The report can be found HERE.

22 August 2011

submarineNuclear waste is common in the Arctic. After eight years of waiting, Russia can finally embrace its new nuclear waste transporter, Rossita. Built in Italy, it can now start to collect waste from numerous locations in Russian waters.

Spent nuclear fuel needs to be disposed from ships and submarines. They are pumped to storage tanks that are then emptied. Some of these tanks are deteriorating due to poor maintenance and the harsh Arctic climate. The need for Rossita was huge and it is warmly welcomed in the Arctic.

Submarine scrap yards and the ports of Gremikha, Andreyeva Bay, Sayda Bay and Severodvinsk will be amongst its locations.

The vessel has two isolated cargo holds with a capacity of 720 tonnes. They are equipped with special ventilation systems to maintain appropriate temperatures. The vessel is 76 meters long with a 14-meter-wide cargo capacity of 1700 tonnes and a four meter draught. Its diesel engine power two propellers give the Rossita a speed of 12 knots.

The cost is around 70 million Euros.

It was last year Russia started the disposal of nuclear waste from its bases. Amongst tasks are the removal of two submarines in the Barents- and Kara Seas.

The two submarines in question are the November class nuclear submarines B-159 (K-159), which sank in the Barents Sea in August 2003, 248 meters down, with nine of her crew and 800 kilograms of spent nuclear fuel, while being moved for dismantling. The other one is the K-27, which was dumped in the eastern Kara Sea in 1982. Her reactor compartment was sealed before the sub was dumped at a depth of 33 meters.

See also:
Radiological assessment: Waste disposal in the Arctic Seas
Report from the International Atomic Energy Agency

Picture: Nuclear submarine in the Arctic.

19 August 2011

The Icelandic coastguard is strengthening its fleet with a new vessel. Named Thor (Þór) after the God of Thunder will be the most complete patrol ship of its kind in the North-Atlantic.

The multitasking vessel is strengthened for sailing in ice-laid waters and will strengthen search and rescue in the North-Atlantic. Iceland can play a big role in those activities in the future.

It will arrive in Iceland in September from Chile. An 8.8 Richter-scaled earthquake destroyed the shipping marine where it was built in February 2010, delaying the delivery for about a year. It will take almost four years to deliver the ship, including the delay.

Thor will have all the qualities of a tugboat and is well equipped for surveillance and all kinds of rescues.

"Thor will be a revolution for Iceland," Georg Lárusson, chief executive of the Icelandic Coast Guard told DV newspaper in Iceland.

"We are in a position where our environment is changing because of the melt of sea ice and the opening of the Northeast Sea Route. This ship will make us capable in taking part in shipping regarding these changes and taking part in projects associated with patrol in the increased traffic.”

See also:
More information about Thor (in Icelandic) - PDF
Shipping in the Arctic - From Arctic Portal webpage
Icelandic Coast Guard webpage