A New Arctic

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    Polar bear trade bans at odds with subsistence hunting

     Awwwwww. polar bears! (From BBC

    It is hard to say what is damaging polar bear populations more - climate change or trade in the fur and other body parts. 

    Campaigners from many walks of life want the trade on bear products to stop. But this does not suit those that make a living off of killing the 600 legally killed/year bears in Canada. 

    This matter is up for debate in March (2013, Thailand) at the next CITES (Convention on the trade in endangered species) meeting. The ban is currently supported by the US and Russian governments. The last time an attempt was made to change the ruling ,in 2010, it was defeated after the UK and the EU voted against a ban. 

    The ban is not a big concern for those at WWF: 

    "If we were tempted to support it on the basis of trade being a major threat, it is not," says Dr Colman O’Criodain, WWF’s wildlife trade policy analyst.

    "We have to focus on what is the major threat and not distract ourselves with a relatively minor one. We can’t be arguing for the science when it suits us and then ignore it when it doesn’t suit our case," he added.

    From: BBC

    — 1 year ago
    "On a light June night in 1989 the Russian cruise ship Maxim Gorkiy glides peacefully along the coast of Svalbard. Suddenly there is a loud impact and alarm bells ring all over the ship. Just like Titanic, the ship carrying 973 German passengers has hit an iceberg. It takes on water and begins to sink immediately. Fortunately a rescue helicopter is stationed on Bjørnøya, and the Norwegian Coast Guard ship Senja is on patrol not far away. When Senja comes to the rescue three hours later, the cruise ship’s bow is already submerged to the level of the main deck. However, the coast guard crew manages to prevent Maxim Gorkiy from going down. The passengers, many of them dressed in nightclothes, are evacuated from the ice floes around the ship using helicopters, lifeboats and life rafts. They are then transported to Svalbard. Luckily, no lives were lost."
    Science Daily - Polar Perils: Activity in the Arctic Is On the Increase, but How Safe Is It to Operate There? (Nov. 26, 2012)
    — 1 year ago
    The orange areas show Shell’s {Alaskan] leases to explore for and extract oil. Shell estimates that the Arctic holds some 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil - the equivalent, overall, of 400bn barrels of oil.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20310752. 

    The orange areas show Shell’s {Alaskan] leases to explore for and extract oil. Shell estimates that the Arctic holds some 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil - the equivalent, overall, of 400bn barrels of oil.

    From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20310752. 

    — 1 year ago
    Oil drilling in extreme conditions

    Science Daily seems to be working its way through Arctic drilling issues this month. Here is a take on a second piece they have on the topic: Norway’s Oil Industry Working in Extreme Conditions

    Here they explore the considerations needed when working in temperatures down to -30°C, storms, snow, drift ice, and the blackest night. This means that any issue - whether a leak or failure, or humans in danger - the efforts needed fix the problem are greatly increased. The cold Norwegian waters are now under heavy activity:

    1980s - Opened by the Norwegian government
    2007 - Snøhvit field goes online (85km from land)
    2011 - Skurgard oil field find (~240km from land)
    2012 - Statoil announces plans to go from NOK 80mil to NOK 250mil in 2013
    2014 - Eni aims to bring Goliat oil development into production (140km from land)
    2018 - Skurgard oil field expected to be in operation 

    Some of the difficulties lie in:

    • weather unpredictability and poor forecasting
    • few monitoring stations
    • long winters/short summers
    • increased frequency of broken equipment in cold conditions (snow cover, cold hands)
    • tailroing equipment for these conditions (ie: Plastics, rubber, metals and lubricants change their properties under extreme cold)
    • increased need for heating and lighting
    • increased need for remote monitoring (ie: real time diagnosis)
    • distances for delivery, operations, maintenance, and support
    • more accidents happen at night
    • drift ice - heavy and at the mercy of rough seas
    • oil spill clean up is not designed for Arctic environment
    … to name a few.
    Professor Tore Markeset and professor Ove Tobias Gudmestad at the University of Stavanger (UiS) recommend: 
    a gradual advance northwards, in order to learn from conditions at each stage and to keep in step with technological progress.
    in order to learn about safety, construction, and operation in the more northerly waters. 
    — 1 year ago
    Commercial Arctic winter transit first: Gas tanker Ob River crossing attempt

    Departure: Hammerfest, Norway. 8 November. 150,000m^3 of LNG. 

    RouteBarents Sea & Northeast Passage. Accompanied by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. International crew of 40.

    Chartered from: Greek owners Dynagas by Russian Gazprom. 40% as long as standard Norway to Japan routes. Therefore: 40% of the fuel used (not including fuel used by the icebreaker). 

    Arrival: Early December. Japan.

    This shipment was fueled by a loss of US demand due to increasing local shale gas production; and increasing demand in power source alternatives post the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    Gunnar Sander, senior adviser at the Norwegian Polar Institute, points out that: 

    • "The major point about gas is that it now goes east and not west," and 
    • "The major driver is the export of resources from the Arctic region, not the fact that you can transit across the Arctic sea."
    • Reminder: "Nineteen thousand ships went through the Suez canal last year [2011]; around 40 went through the northern sea route. There’s a huge difference."

    From BBC.

    — 1 year ago
    #shipping  #winter transit  #Ob River  #LNG  #tanker 
    The worries of working in the Arctic

    A Science Daily Article covering a whole host of topics and the future of Arctic enterprise, from: 

    • Increased activity
    • Communications
    • Many science gaps
    • Satellite communications
    • Ad hoc communication systems
    • Collision risk
    • Icing problems
    • Sensors on the seabed
    • Monitoring systems
    • Marine charts and shoals
    • Rescue
    • Clothing & PPE
    • Readiness and not always being prepared
    • Special vessels, and 
    • Improve safety levels

    Quite a long list of precautions to consider when working in this unforgiving environment, where the results of the simplest errors or mis-haps are magnified.

    From: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126110538.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fearth_climate+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Earth+%26+Climate+News%29

    — 1 year ago
    #safety  #communications  #rescue 
    "The melting icecaps are opening new drilling opportunities as well as new maritime routes, so it’s critical that we now act to set rules of the road to avoid conflict over those resources, and protect the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem."

    On October 18, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Georegtown U in DC to discuss the Arctic.

    It is no secret that the US understands the importance of the Arctic as a source of short term energy and as a shipping route, but here they are declaring their need to work with their neighbours to promote effective cooperation. 

    How the cooperation takes place will shape some world events, determine who may benefit, and by how much. There are some well defined and some yet to be defined climate effects as well as unknown futures. Economic conditions of many people will be affected, whether it the locals that can have new jobs or traditional ways damaged.

    "All of this is still unknown,” she said.

    Further: 

    "we intend to play a major role in writing them. We have no choice. We have to be involved everywhere in the world. The future security and prosperity of our nation and the rest of the world hangs in the balance.” (Clinton)

    From: http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674u.s._eyes_arctic_for_future_energy_needs/
    — 1 year ago
    On holidays!

    On holidays. Posts will be sporadic and unlikely until November 28.

    Cheers!

    — 1 year ago
    Arctic S&R about to get a boost

    Discovery Air and Airbus Military announced they’re teaming up to place one of 5 bids on a 20-year contract to provide and maintain Canada’s fixed-wing search and rescue fleet with an Arctic base. Currently, all military airplanes used in northern searches are dispatched out of CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario, or Winnipeg (up to 7 hours away by air).

    An eery looking unrelated photo from a Google Image search. 
    The deal will have:
    • Airbus supplying its C295 aircraft and 
    • Discovery Air will provide training, engineering and maintenance.

    The timeline on this: the request for proposals is not expected for another year or so. This is to replace the current 19 fixed-wing planes in Canada’s aging search and rescue fleet. 

    The proposals are welcomed by locals, especially politicians who want better local coverage. 

    More at: CBC news

    — 1 year ago
    First the Pacific garbage patch, now Arctic sea floor garbage

    Evidence that deep-sea plastic pollution doubled from 2002 to 2011 has been seen from photos taken of the Arctic seabed (Dr. Melanie Bergmann, via: Marine Pollution Bulletin).

    Scientists regularly drag tow camera systems from ships, to about 1.5 metres above the seabed. Typically these are used to document changes in deep-sea life like sea cucumbers, sea lilies, sponges, fish and shrimps. 

    From: nunatsiaq online.ca. Example photo of Arctic seabed garbage.

    In this case a photo was taken  every 30 seconds. Dr. Bergmann examined 2,100 seabed photographs taken in the eastern Fram Strait between Greenland and the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the deep-sea observatory of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute. 

    “We found plastic bags entangled in sponges, sea anemones settling on pieces of plastic or rope, cardboard and a beer bottle colonised by sea lilies,” Bergmann said in an Oct. 23 news release from the institute.

    Researchers suspect that the plastic trash is accumulating in the Arctic due to shrinking and thinning of the Arctic sea ice, along with the increase in marine traffic.

    “The Arctic sea ice cover normally acts as a natural barrier, preventing wind blowing waste from land out onto the sea, and blocking the path of most ships. Ship traffic has increased enormously since the ice cover has been continuously shrinking and getting thinner. We are now seeing three times the number of private yachts and up to 36 times more fishing vessels in the waters surrounding Spitsbergen compared to pre-2007 times,” Bergmann said.

    More at Alfred Wegener Institute.
    — 1 year ago
    Check out this video of a model of soon to be built Canadian ice breaker - “the John G. Diefenbaker”. They use this to assess the maneuverability in ice, plus the hull’s ice vulnerability to the ice.
The John G. Diefenbaker will cost about $720 million to build, slated for a 2017 completion. This model is 1/25th scale at 6 metres long, and has similar control features, such as rocking. 
From: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2012/10/23/nl-polar-icebreaker-ice-testing-1023.html

    Check out this video of a model of soon to be built Canadian ice breaker - “the John G. Diefenbaker”. They use this to assess the maneuverability in ice, plus the hull’s ice vulnerability to the ice.

    The John G. Diefenbaker will cost about $720 million to build, slated for a 2017 completion. This model is 1/25th scale at 6 metres long, and has similar control features, such as rocking. 

    From: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2012/10/23/nl-polar-icebreaker-ice-testing-1023.html

    — 1 year ago
    Polar tourism dominated by mid life crisis

    Most tourists to Nunavut are: 

    • between 40 and 65, 
    • travelling alone for business, 
    • stays less than a week, 
    • A Canadian, 
    • probably from Ontario, British Columbia,  Alberta, Quebec or Nunavut,
    • well-off couples,
    • Most money goes to airfare.
    cruise trip passenger numbers dropped to 1,900 passengers in 2011, from nearly 3,000 in 2008. Most passengers were well off women over 65 with degrees.

    Half of all leisure visitors visit the Kitikmeot region. 
    From: nunatsiaq online.ca; PDF (2008); 
    — 1 year ago