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24 November 2010

The Arctic in the new millennium:

Nexus_kubbur_2

Confrontation or cooperation
November 25th, the University of Akureyri
NEXUS, research forum for security and defense
UNAK, Polar Law Institute
Northern Research Forum

On 25 November, the University of Akureyri, NEXUS: a Research Forum on Security and Defence), and the Northern Research Forum - in cooperation with the Icelandic Foreign Ministry - are co-organizing a Conference on Arctic matters. The Conference will be held at the University of Akureyri from 9:00 to 17:00 hours.

Before noon there will be lectures on traditional security, societal security and human rights, as well as environmental security in the Arctic. After lunch, working groups will be formed on these same themes, and will then present their findings in plenary at the end of the day.

The conference will be WebCasted on the Arctic Portal

20 November 2010

ipyThe IPY 2012 Conference in Montreal is the final event of International Polar Year 2007 - 2008, the largest international program of interdisciplinary polar research ever undertaken.This upcoming international forum in April 2012 will be a valuable opportunity to demonstrate and apply the latest findings of polar research on a broad range of topics from oceans and sea ice, to permafrost, vegetation and wildlife, to changes in Arctic communities and beyond. The "From Knowledge to Action" Conference will present the highlights of IPY 2007-2008 and the recent polar science assessments that are advancing our knowledge of the polar regions.

The Conference will be organized around 4 main areas:

  1. Highlight the latest polar science findings
  2. Synthesize knowledge and results into system-scale understandings
  3. Link knowledge to action
  4. Advance public engagement to further action on polar issues

You can find  a list of proposed science session topics HERE.

Visit the IPY 2012 homepage to learn more about the Conference

18 November 2010

Burning hydrate

Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrates, methane ice or fire ice is something that most of us are perhaps not to familiar with but could potentially have great significance for future energy use globally and especially in the Arctic. Methane clathrate is a crystaline form of methane gas and pure water that exists when pressure is sufficiently high, or temperature sufficiently low. Given that these conditions exist the substance looks like a lump of ice. The quantity of the substance is staggeringly abundant estimated about 300,000 trillion cubic feet locatid at the bottom of the ocean all over the world and in the Arctic permafrost. It is believed to be the cleanest and most abundant source of energy in the world.

There is however naturally a big if involved as it's harvesting and utilization is extremely complex. Once the material is extracted from either it's pressure drops or temperature rises the material will expand 164 times, representing significant storage and transport issues. Due to it's obvious problems the utilization of Methane clathrate is in it's early stages.

A Japanese and Candadian Science project was just concluded in the Mackenzie Delta. Over two winter the researchers drilled down more than a kilometer into a 150 meter thick layer by the edge of the Beaufort Seat at Malik which contains the most concentrated known deposit of the frozen fuel in the world. Initial results are a step in the right direction as scientists were able to sustain steady flow of gas from the hydrates for six days, where previous attempts have only sustained the flow for a few hours.

“It’s a landmark, no doubt about it,” says Ray Boswell, technical manager of the U.S. government’s gas hydrate program. Even if there are significant challenges in the utilization of Methane clathrate or Fiery Ice but due to the quantity available of the substance and it's environmentally friendly attributes compared to other sources of energy future developments seem to be something one should definitely be on the look for.

Source: Arctic Focus

17 November 2010

Norilsk Nickel

Norilsk Nickel - Russian Arctic-class cargo vessel returned yesterday, tuesday, to harbour in Dudinka after being first in history to navigate through the Arctic waters without any ice-breaker support. The vessel travelled through the Northern Sea Route by Russian Arctic coastline to Shanghai and back taking total of 58 days, total steaming time of 41 days, for the trip. Total length of the round trip Dudinka-Providence Bay-Busang-Shanghai-Nakhodka-Dudinka was 11,320 miles from which approximately half was in clear water and half in ices.

According to Sergey Buzov, Deputy General Director – Head of Transport and Logistics unit of MMC Morilsk Nickel the trip was an invaluable experience, which they will use in future to plan their transport operations and can endeed be regarded as the Company's contribution to the development of Russian Maritime Declaration in exploration and development of new Arctic regions and Arctic wealth.

At the moment Company owns five ARC-7 ice-class vessels for Arctic transportation and the sixth will be introduced in 2011. The vessels are built in accordance with latest environmental and technological standards enabling them to navigate independently through Arctic ice without ice-breaker support.

15 November 2010

EU Arctic Policy flag

The Draft report undertakes to asses the existing legal and political framework in the Arctic as well as to establish a clear set of priorities of the European Union with regard to the Arctic. The report suggests that the European Commission and the Council and offering close cooperation to the Arctic states and stakeholders. The draft report clearly recognizes that the Arctic is far from being a legal vacuum, but has developed a set of rules which will nevertheless need to be further developed due to changing circumstances.

Main priorities of the EU in the Arctic set out are:

  • The road to a sustainable socio-economic development and environmental protection
  • The potential of new world transport routes and their vital importance to the EU member's states
  • The potential of developing resources like Hydrocarbons, Minerals, fish and biogenetic resources

With regard to a sustainable socio-economic development the Eco-System based management approach as applied in the Barents today is recognised.

The report acknowledges the responsibility of the EU as one of the main contributors to pollution and climate change.

In its conclusion the Report requests the Commission to set up a permanent Inter service on the Arctic and likewise in the future EEAS.

Requests and suggestions are made as to a new circumpolar co-funding and co-programming research programme.

Finally the importance of EU engagement in the further development of Northern Sea Routes is highlighted and suggestions as to the Galileo project are made.

Overall the Draft Report seems to be well perceived, both in the EU and in the Arctic.

Thus there is justified hope that the Report will not only contribute to outline the EU's Arctic policy, but also to contribute to confidence building with the Arctic stakeholders.

  • The Debate with the Commission can be watched online by following this link 
  • The Report can be downloaded in all the EU languages by following this link

The Process will continue with the EU Arctic Forum hosting the Meeting with the European Parliaments Rapporteur to discuss the report on "A Sustainable EU policy for the High North" on 7. December 2010.

The text from the official announcement can be seen here: 

Birgit Schnieber-Jastram, Chair of the EU-ARCTIC-Forum now has the pleasure to host a meeting with the rapporteur and several shadow rapporteurs before the vote of the Report in the Committee on Foreign Affairs takes place.

The Rapporteur Michael Gahler MEP

is looking forward to present and debate the
Report on A sustainable EU Policy for the High North as well as amendments
 
on 7. December at 09.00 (tbc)
in the European Parliament in Brussels.

To ensure fair involvement of Arctic stakeholders the Chair of the EU-ARCTIC-Forum in the European Parliament Birgit Schnieber-Jastram MEP is inviting you to participate in the debate and in particular welcomes any contributions, which should be made in due time by contacting the Adviser on the Report to Michael Gahler MEP: Mr. Steffen Weber

Or the respective shadow rapporteurs and members of the EU-ARCTIC-Forum:
Anneli Jäätteenmäki MEP, Liisa Jaakonsaari MEP, Indrek Tarand MEP, Konrad Szymanski MEP and Sabine Lösing MEP.

The EU-ARCTIC-Forum in the European Parliament thus wants to ensure the proper involvement of stakeholders and continues its work to facilitate and bolster a well informed debate on Arctic Issues in Brussels and to interlink debates on Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Resources, World Trade Routes, Security, Sustainable Development etc, that are important in the Arctic context.

15 November 2010

COP10 Nagoya, Japan

By TOM BARRY, CAFF Executive Secretary

The resolutions from the recently concluded COP10 in Nagoyja Japan, made specific reference to the Arctic Council and Arctic biodiversity.

Under the section on New and Emerging issues, the following resolution was noted:

[That the 10th Conference of the Parties] invites the Arctic Council to provide relevant information and assessments of Arctic biodiversity, for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific,Technical and Technological Advic. In particular, information generated through the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program of the Arctic Council's working group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna(CAFF)

In early 2009, the CAFF Working Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Subsequent to that, the CAFF report on "Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010: Selected Indicators of Change" was designated as the Arctic Council's contribution towards measuring the CBD target of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Specifically, the CAFF report contributed to:

  • The United Nations 2010 Biodiversity - an international (CBD) target to reduce loss of biodiversity by 2010.
  • The UN International Biodiversity Year (2010)

Further information at http://www.cbd.int/cop10/.

10 November 2010

Military headquarters

Norway is the first of the NATO countries to move it's military headquarters to the Arctic by formally opening a new high tech Operations Center located one kilometer inside the mountain at Reitan outside Bodø. North Norway.

The operational center ,which has been described as unique in the world by H.M. King Harald of Norway, contains the most modern technology allowing military commanders to plan operations in different parts of the world simultaneously. The center contains Norway's largest flat screen covering an approximitely 40 square meters. The complex was essentially a cold-war base, covering an aproximit 18.000 square meter five stories high and built to withstand a nuclear blast.

Military generals

The opening of the command center, is in line with the governments increased focus on the Arctic regions. The previous command center was located in Stavanger in southern part of Norway. The move can be estimated to bring the military command not only physically closer to the Arctic but mentally, including a first hand contact with all the questions concerning the High North and a deeper understanding of the stakeholders.

To Take a look into the military complex follow this link

To watch a video from the opening follow this link

Source: Barents Observer & BBC News

9 November 2010

Arctic Portal

Tomorrow the 10th of November the Nordic house in Iceland will host a series of lectures about Northern issues. The event focuses on the monitoring of environment and society and will include many very interesting lectures and topics. The Arctic Portal will be streaming the event live on the Arctic Portal. The broadcast will start tomorrow morning at 09:00 GMT.

09:00-09:15

Address by Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, Chairman of the Icelandic cooperation board on Northern issues.

Address by Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Icelandic Minister for the Environment.

09:15-09:45 Tom Barry, CAFF: Introduction to the Arctic Council and it's working group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF).

09:45-10:15 Hans H. Hansen, Environmental Agency: Risk assessment map of the North Atlantic, relevant to co-ordinated reaction strategy to environmental accidents. 

Coffee Break 

10:30 Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, University of Iceland: Sea Ice studies and monitoring in the North. 

11:00-11:30 Árni Einarsson, Natural research center Mývatn Iceland: Þingeyingar for a thousand years.

11:30-12:00 Starri Heiðmarsson, The Icelandic Institute of Natural History: Esja mountains and the glacier Breiðarmerkurjökull.

Lunch Break

12:50 Oddur Vilhelmsson, University of Akureyri: The Microbiology flora in Glerár river- a practical model for monitoring on environmental implications due to climate and pollution in the North or not?

13:20- 13:50 Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Stefansson Arctic Institute: The advance toward the North, risk, safety and adaption of coastal towns due to climate change and increased shipping in the North. 

14:00-15:00 Round Table discussion: 

The status of research, monitoring and international cooperation in the North

Discussion moderator: Kristján Kristjánsson, University of Reykjavík

Participants: 

Guðrún Nína Petersen, Icelandic Met Office

Hallgrímur Jónasson, The Icelandic Center for Research (Rannis)

Ragnheiður E. Þorsteinsdóttir, Minestry of foreign affairs

Helgi Jensson, The Environment Agency of Iceland

Níels Einarsson, Stefanson Arctic Institute

Þóra Ellen Þórhallsdóttir, University of Iceland

15:00-16:00 Memorial lecture on Vilhjálmur Stefánsson, The Arctic Explorer  

Professor Þóra Ellen Þórhallsdóttir

The event will cover many of the most exciting topics within the Arctic region, the broadcast can be seen on the Arctic Portal front-page or by following this link

9 November 2010

ice_cruiseshipShipping

The possibility of a trans-arctic shipping route has intrigued seafarers since the days of the first Arctic explorers, as it would shorten the distance between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean significantly and shorten trading routes. This possibility still intrigues many and is an issue that has received significant media coverage; it probably will become a possibility during the 21. century due to declining in sea Ice.

This would create a number of economic opportunities of Arctic residents as regular transit shipping through the Arctic Ocean would require significant infrastructure, transshipment ports, search and rescue infrastructure would need to be strengthened significantly and numerous other services would be needed.

For further information on the subject of Arctic Shipping please visit our Shipping Portlet

Energy exploration

Less Sea Ice could further enable access to the vast natural reserves located in the Arctic which would contribute further to the regions economic stability, it does however need to be noted that the loss of sea ice in this context could be both a good thing as well as something creating a problem. Less sea ice would mean better access but at the same time mean stronger waves and storms which could endanger infrastructure such as platforms for oil and gas exploration. - For further information on Arctic Energy issues please visit our Energy Portlet

ice_cruiseship2Tourism

With less sea ice coverage, it could be estimated that more cruise ships would venture into the Arctic, which also creates the need for more infrastructure and offers local communities opportunities to offer services to tourists and further build up the Arctic infrastructure.

All of these opportunities mentioned have their upside and downside as well.

These activities have the possibility if they are not closely managed to pose an environmental threat to the in many ways fragile region, but also could offer quite an opportunity to spur sustainable growth in the North.

9 November 2010

Less sea ice coverage and changes in melt patterns in the arctic has various implications for biodiversity of the Arctic regions, the affect is in many cases not clear and it's full reach not clear, the few facts mentioned below should be considered as examples rather than a full analyze.

The seasonal expansion and melt of sea ice in the Arctic is a defining feature of the highly productive ecosystem.

The timing of the phytoplankton bloom, which supplies energy to the entire ecosystem, is regulated by the timing of the ice retreat.

As temperatures increase, less sea ice forms and it melts earlier in the spring, resulting in delayed spring phytoplankton bloom. Algae and tiny animals inhabit sea ice, living in and on the under surface.

In the spring when sunlight is returning, ice in the Arctic melts discharging those plants and animals into the water column where they stimulate a massive phytoplankton bloom. There is more plankton present than can be consumed by the zooplankton and so most of the nutrients fall to the seafloor feeding benthic animals. The ocean bottom in many parts of the arctic are a rich living seafloor providing abundant food for diving predators including walrus, gray whales and spectacled eiders.

Warmer temperatures cause the melt to happen earlier than usual. Under this scenario, there has been less growth of ice algae and it is discharged before sufficient sunlight is present to cause the phytoplankton bloom. The bloom is then delayed until sunlight is available but without the added fuel from the ice algae. Less phytoplankton is produced and it is consumed by zooplankton before it reaches the seafloor. This scenario is considered more favorable to fish in the pelagic zone feeding on zooplankton.

The change in timing of the phytoplankton bloom affects which predators consume the phytoplankton and the effect is carried all the way up the food chain. Colder temperatures and more sea ice normally support benthic (bottom-dwelling) communities like crustaceans and in turn the marine mammals and diving sea ducks that prey on them. In contrast, warmer temperatures and reductions in sea ice result in more food available for fish in the pelagic zone (water column). Scientists are concerned that a loss of spring phytoplankton production may in turn reduce the overall productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem

Quite a number of animals also directly base their subsistence on the Ice coverage such as polar bear, walrus, hooded seal and the narwhal. Sea Ice provides protection as well from predators like the killer whale also known as Orca whale that now have easier access to prey in arctic waters.

The interlinkage of global warming and retreating sea ice is also likely to change the biological composition in the region as new species move further into the Arctic, with existing species moving further north, often creating challenges connected to their access to their food supply.

The loss of ice will open the Arctic to new levels of shipping, oil and gas exploration and drilling, fishing, hunting, tourism, and coastal development. These, in turn, will add new threats to marine mammal populations, including ship strikes, contaminants, and competition for prey.
Effect on whether patterns

It is a common misunderstanding that melting Sea Ice will contribute to a rise in Sea levels, since the Sea Ice is already floating in the Ocean this would be very minimal and has been estimated to be around 4mm if the entire world Sea Ice melted. The loss of Sea Ice would however contribute to a overall warmer Arctic which will accelerate the melting of the Greenland icecap, which would lead to a Sea level rise of 20 feet or 6 meters. Such a Sea level rise could have quite a significant effect on the globe, the video below illustrates some of the effects of a rise of 6 meters.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgCYhU5ISwI&feature=player_embedded]

Effect on the jet stream and planetary weather patterns
Continued loss of Arctic sea ice may dramatically change global weather and precipitation patterns in the decades to come. The jet stream will probably move further north in response to warmer temperatures over the pole, which will bring more precipitation to the Arctic. More frequent and intense droughts over the U.S. and other regions of the mid-latitudes may result from this shift in the jet stream. Changes to the course of the jet stream affect weather patterns for the entire planet, and we can expect impacts on the strength of the monsoons and re-curvature likelihood of hurricanes.

Francis et al. (2009) found that during 1979 - 2006, years that had unusually low summertime Arctic sea had a 10 - 20% reduction in the temperature difference between the Equator and North Pole. This resulted in a weaker jet stream with slower winds that lasted a full six months, through Fall and Winter. The weaker jet caused a weaker Aleutian Low and Icelandic Low during the winter, resulting in reduced winter precipitation over all of the U.S., Alaska, and Northern Europe. In contrast, increased precipitation fell over Spain, Italy, and Japan during these winters. The authors noted that strong La Niña or El Niño events can have a much stronger influence on the wintertime atmospheric circulation, which will overshadow the circulation changes due to summertime Arctic sea ice loss.

Such as the strong La Niña event occurred during the winter of 2007 - 2008. In any case, reduced summertime Arctic sea ice should give most of the Northern Hemisphere a delayed start to winter during most years, for the foreseeable future.

ice_ilulissatCoastal damage in the Arctic

More open water in the Arctic Ocean allows erosion due to wave action to affect the coast for longer periods, particularly during fall, when storms tend to be stronger with higher storm surges. The resulting destruction has already forced residents of the Alaskan town of Shishmaref to vote to abandon their village. More than half the residents of the nearby village of Kivalina were forced to evacuate on September 13 2007, when 25-40 mph winds drove a 3-4 foot high storm surge into the town. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a $3 million sea wall to protect the town, but the wall has not been able to hold against recent storms. Over 100 feet of coastline has been lost in the past three years.

More open water also means more moisture and heat will be available to power storms. These stronger storms will bringer higher winds and higher storm surges to coastal areas in the Arctic over the remainder of the 21st century, resulting in increased erosion and flooding of low-lying areas.

Effect on the local population

Sea Ice affects all people as a part of the whether system that enables humans and other species to exist, but the decline in sea ice will have a more prominent affect local people. Storms are likely to gradually become stronger and more frequent and land erosion by the sea will continue to increase. The declining sea ice and previously unknown changes commonly connected with climate change are having a significant effect on various indigenous groups in the Arctic.

Subsistence activities still have a significant meaning to numerous arctic indigenous groups both from a cultural as well as economic stand-point. Numerous indigenous groups around the Arctic region have been very active in promoting the issues connected to climate change and traditional knowledge increasingly being accepted within the scientific community. Both indigenous groups as well as other inhabitants of the North will have to adapt to the changes at hand and due to the gradual nature of these changes it should be easier to adapt.

The environment has of course been changing for all history even if these changes connected to global warming are unprecedented, many of these changes may offer quite a bit of opportunities alongside the challenges created.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX1BOLGgUwA&feature=player_embedded]

9 November 2010

University of Oulu

As a part of the University of Oulu recruiting funding programme Thule Institute is offering outstanding researchers with PhD’s Investigator Start-up Packages for five years The Deadline of applications is 30th of December 2010.

Description of Recruiting Packages

Research Fellow in River Basin Research

The main duty of the research fellow is to carry out high-level research on climate change and land use impacts on river basins with special emphasis on research questions linking water resources, hydrology and ecology. Read more

Research Fellow in Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research in Environmental Sciences

The main duty of the Research Fellow is to carry out high-level research on interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary issues and methodologies in environment-related sciences and to publish the results in academic journals and volumes. The work includes the development of new research, and research-based teaching and graduate supervision activities.Read more

Research Fellow in Sustainable Resource Management and Material Efficiency

The main duty of the appointed person is to carry out high-level research on interdisciplinary issues and methodologies in material flows and resource efficiency and to publish the results in academic journals and volumes. The work includes development of new research, research-based teaching and supervision activities.Read more

For more information please contact the Director of the Thule Institute, Professor Kari Laine.

E-mail: kari.laine(at)oulu.fi

9 November 2010

ice_discoThe Arctic Sea Ice is one of the key symbols of the cold and barren Arctic regions, and affects the lives of both arctic and non-arctic residents.

Sea Ice significantly contributes to the worlds whether patterns and help to keep the globes temperature down.

Measurements of sea Ice during 2010 have reinforced the general belief that the sea ice is declining year from year.

In this coverage the AP will present an overview of these changes as well as some of the possible implementations, opportunities and effects this may have, based of information from leading scientific institutions involved in snow and ice measurements.

Sea ice being white has a much higher reflection than other earths surfaces, making it function as a giant mirror reflecting the suns radiation into space. This is reflectiveness is referred to as "albeido" It has been estimated that Sea Ice reflects as much as 50-95% of the suns radiation while an open ocean surface only reflects about 10-15%.

This reflection contributes significantly to keeping atmospheric temperatures cooler. Additionally this keeps the ocean in the northern hemisphere cooler, helping to maintain the planet's ocean conveyor system. With the rapid decline in Sea Ice, documented in recent years there is the risk of a cicle of warming as higher atmospheric temperatures contribute to loss of sea ice and further loss of sea ice contributes to more atmospheric warming, this effect is known as the "ice-albedo feedback".

ice_svalbardThe prevailing view among climate scientists had been that an ice-free Arctic ocean would occur in the 2070 - 2100 time frame. The February 2007 report from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that without drastic changes in greenhouse gas emissions, Arctic sea ice will "almost entirely" disappear by the end of the century. The recent observations and the Holland et al. model study suggest that it is conceivable that a complete loss of summer Arctic sea ice will occur far earlier.

In a 2007 interview published in The Guardian, Dr. Mark Serreze, an Arctic ice expert with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said: "If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children's lifetimes."

While natural fluctuations in wind, ocean circulation, and temperatures are partly to blame for this loss of sea ice, human-caused global warming is also to blame. In the words of Dr. Serreze: "The rules are starting to change and what's changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases. This year puts the exclamation mark on a series of record lows that tell us something is happening."

Some argue that the process of achieving both consensus and rigor in the IPCC report yields a "conservative" estimate of climate change. It is true that predictions which involve phase changes are among the most difficult for climate models.

This is made even more challenging for sea ice, which sits in water and is subject to amplified melting by stirring in the water, and is also sensitive to the local salinity of the water. If there are to be surprises in the predictions of climate change, then they are likely to involve phase changes. In a warming climate, this would involve the transition of water from ice to liquid.

The decline of the Sea ice is likely to have a wide number of impacts to both the world in general and of course specifically the Arctic. These impacts are likely to be both negative and positive.

The video below was put together by the Arctic Portal using data from the IARC-JAXA project showing the transition in Sea ice from June 2002- 14 July 2010.

 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpRYCEHJlLc]

To learn more about the Arctic sea ice:

Summary - The Greenland Ice Sheet in a Changing Climate.
Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA), 2009. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Arctic Council

Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures. 2008. United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

Arctic sea Ice News and Analysis, The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

Arctic sea-ice ecosystems, Arctic Biodiversity Trend 2010, CAFF, Arctic Council