The Arctic This Week - News for April 22 - April 28, 2012

By Tom Fries Arctic News April 22 - 28, 2012

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Thanks for joining us this week! Please note that we’ve begun this week using an abbreviation key for sources that we refer to frequently. The key is at the bottom of this post.


If you’ve only got a few minutes, these six articles are the best use of your time.

(1, 2, 3) Last week I wrote that domestic prices for gas in Russia are held artificially low; a fierce article on that topic this week from Natural Gas Europe suggests that that viewpoint may be at least outdated or, at worst, just plain wrong. Follow that up with this fantastic piece on energy security and the relationship between Europe and Russia from the Journal of Energy Security. (Many thanks to Katerina Oskarsson for the great work). Finally, here’s an excellent analysis of what would need to happen for Russia to reap the full benefit of its hydrocarbon wealth in the future, coming from Matthew Hulbert at Forbes.

(4, 5) The full report from the most recent Arctic Species Trend Index, a massive survey of Arctic wildlife, is available here. What’s surprising is that it’s not all gloom & doom, even though there is certainly plenty of that. There’s a wealth of data, whatever your point of view might be. A related article from the Ottawa Citizen, which is noteworthy more for its message than for its style, points out that when we choose a species to worry about, our choice has little to do with actual risk to the species, and much to do with other qualities.

(6) The final read of the week this time around is a long, detailed post from Frontier Scientistson some of the amazing and surprising challenges that confront mushers training for major races.


Although these will take place elsewhere than in the Arctic, it’s noteworthy that Russia and NATO will be conducting some joint exercises in 2012 (ITAR-TASS). It at least sets a good precedent, such that perhaps the separate-but-equal Arctic military exercises that took place earlier this year (reviewed here cursorily by the Atlantic Council) might become more integrated in years to come. In other cooperative news between Russia and NATO, Barents Observer reported that Russia’s Northern Fleet will be outfitting itself with NATO communications equipment in order to improve joint efforts against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Collaboration is clearly still a matter of picking and choosing, though - the two parties are still relatively far apart on missile defense, and there will be no Russia Council-NATO meeting at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago (RIAN).

Griping in Canada continued this week over the F-35 and its potential uselessness for Arctic purposes. Retired Colonel Paul Maillet’s blasting of the idea, here reproduced in the National Post, is quite a takedown and an entertaining read. Canada’s Southern neighbor is meanwhile working on a different piece of delightful military equipment: a remotely-operated snowmobile specially designed for the Arctic. A fun article on the project comes from Wired. The Canadian military is not without its unique strengths, though, including what the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is calling its “Inuit Advantage”. 

Russia Beyond the Headlines jumped on the conflict bandwagon this week, but I have to give them credit for a reasonably measured tone. I think my favorite article in this vein this week is actually a long one from US Media Monitors reviewing exercise Cold Response. Without directly saying so, the article makes it sound as though Cold Response didn't get much press because of a purposeful government hush-up. I'm no expert, but I’d attribute the lack of press to a lack of public interest in Arctic military drills involving substantially fewer people than are currently enrolled at the college I attended. But I could be wrong.


China’s interest in the Arctic continues to be fodder for writing both bad and good, and it’s interesting to see China Daily’s take on the China-Iceland cooperation agreements inked last week. The newspaper describes the scope of the agreement as “[from] furthering Arctic cooperation to joining hands in marine and polar science and technology, as well as collaboration on geothermal energy and geosciences.” It also expends significant ink on the tug-of-war for Iceland between EU accession and negotiation of an FTA with China which, the article suggests, are not compatible.

Remember when China was courting Norway as a possible date to the Arctic dance? Norway’s demure rejection might have had some unexpected impacts: Aftenbladet reports that a Norwegian officer has been denied a visa for working on China’s continental shelf. This is noteworthy as one representative data point in an overall cooling of business relationships between the two countries: Sturla Henriksen of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association says that “processing Norwegian visa applications is taking longer than before, at the same time that visas that are granted are valid for shorter periods than previously.” Deutsche Welle wroteas well this week in a pretty general way on the concerns that China’s Arctic ambitions may be sparking, and the Journal of Energy Security provided a typically high-quality and candid analysis of China’s interests in the Arctic.

Interfax reported that Russia is setting up a system to remotely monitor water, air and electronic activity in the Arctic (no link available). The world’s largest country is also making some changes to its import and transit regimes for foodstuffs and hazmats in the Northwest (BN) – I'm not sure whether this is a loosening or a tightening of previous regulations. Border crossings for humans on both sides of Russia are looking easier, though - Finland came out in support of proposed visa-free short-term travel via the Allegro train between Helsinki and St. Petersburg (EOTA), and a new boat will permit visa-free travel for Japanese tourists visiting the disputed South Kuril islands (RIAN).

Next door in Alaska, the process of changing electoral districts continues to be extremely contentious (FNM).


One German bank has taken the Lloyd’s-Chatham House report to heart and decided that it will not fund any Arctic drilling because project risks are too high (Think Progress). To editorialize a little bit, it seems to me that all the social and environmental arguments in the world aren’t going to have much of an impact on Arctic drilling as an industry. If it gets really difficult to fund or insure the projects, though, that’ll put a quick stop to it. But good luck getting us, the Public, to be interested in project finance as opposed to polar bears.

On the renewable energy front, we heard once more about the prospect that Iceland’s Landsvirkjun might one day provide Europe with renewable geothermal energy via a submarine cable (IceNews). Unexpectedly, it also looks like the idea of using geothermal energy to heat buildings in downtown Yellowknife has been revived by a Belgian company, which says that there’s enough heat in a nearby mine to make it happen (CBC). This week also saw hints that Statoil might be expanding its wind business to the US. Talk of an offshore wind park near the Maine coast is going on, though government support hasn’t been adequate to get a solid “yes” yet (AB).

On to Russia. As TAI and many others have pointed out before, foreign assistance will be critical for Russia to unlock hydrocarbon resources under the Arctic Ocean. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said this week that such resources, coupled with new prospects in the Black Sea, could make up as much as 40% of Russia’s production by 2030 (WSJ, Bloomberg). The biggest news on that front this week was the deal between Rosneft and Eni, similar in nature to the ExxonMobil-Rosneft deal, which also includes prospects in the Barents (Reuters). Looks like the value of the deal will be $125bn and the total estimated resources in the neighborhood of 36bn BOE (BW). The Italian company will have a ⅓ stake in the projects in exchange for offering Rosneft access to some of its projects elsewhere in the world (MT). Eduard Khudainatov sees the investment as part of Russia’s larger strategy to open the Arctic to exploration (NYT). A cautionary blog post about such projects came from the Financial Times, and the Jamestown Foundation pointed out that Rosneft may in fact have a much tougher time finding Russian corporate partners to work with than foreign partners. Gazprom meanwhile looks increasingly certain about the redirect of the Shtokman project towards LNG for shipping; Reuters suggests that Vladimir Putin will announce the revamp at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June. Finally, a must-read this week from Forbes on Putin’s route to “hydrocarbon heaven” covers the field in terms of the strategic interests that underlie many of these developments. Many thanks to Matthew Hulbert for the good article.

There was also news this week that a new section of the pipeline system intended to bring gas from the Yamal projects is being extended (Penn Energy), and that Rosneft is looking to increase its production and transportation capex by 17% in 2012. To do so, the company will be selling $3bn worth of 10-year bonds (RIAN). A nice overview of those needed capital expenditures comes from S&P, via Reuters. Indeed, much of Russia’s production and transportation infrastructure is in poor shape, and spills are common. This week, an on-land spill in the Nenets from the Lukoil-Bashneft operated Trebs field gushed oil for 37 hours, affecting 5,000 or 8,000 square meters of land, depending whose estimate you prefer. Workers stopped the spill successfully on Sunday the 22nd (Yahoo). The spill polluted pastureland, but not - thankfully - waterways (BO). Nevertheless, the environmental impact of chronic smaller spills like this can be massive for the environment and for local communities ( Chief of the Russian Environmental Agency Vladimir Bezumov said he would prepare a lawsuit against the operating companies when cleanup is completed (BW). Any such lawsuit will be just a drop in the proverbial bucket, though, as figures suggest that as much as a full percent of Russia's output (5 million tons) is lost to spills every year. That's a lot. Bellona offered some good analysis of the causes of such things.

Last week I wrote that domestic prices for gas in Russia are held artificially low; a fierce article on that topic this week from Natural Gas Europe suggests that that viewpoint may be at least outdated or, at worst, just plain wrong. This is a definite read of the week for the conciseness, detail and quality. The Journal of Energy Security also provided a fantastic article on the challenges of many different kinds that Russia confronts in providing enough gas to meet demand from Europe, while Barents Observer pointed to Gazprom’s 35% jump in net profit for 2011 - not too shabby, if it’s accurate. Reuters however sees dark clouds ahead for the company, as Russia’s mineral extraction tax may be hiked in 2012 in a way that Gazprom can’t meaningfully offset in other ways.

There are issues other than oil in Russia as well. Activists in Murmansk protested during the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster against what they see as heedless, dangerous extensions and overusage of the Kola Nuclear Power Plant (Bellona). Check out our podcast interview with Yuri Sergeev of Bellona's Murmansk office to gain a little more insight into this particular conflict.

Across the pole in Canada, Québec's much-discussed Plan Nord for development of energy and mineral resources in the province's northern reaches is contentious, to say the least. Protests in front of Hydro Québec in Montreal went through the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd, perhaps timed to coincide with the International Polar Year 2012 conference ( Those were not the only protests - a group of Nunavimmiut walked out of Québec Premier Jean Charest's speech at IPY on Monday, and protests continued outside the Palais de Congrés in Montreal (NN). Also at IPY, Jimmy Stotts, one of the presidents of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, expressed some strong reservations about moving forward with Arctic Drilling (NN). Our own Kathrin Keil also provided some excellent analysis of Canada’s hydrocarbon interests in the Arctic this week.

Next door in the US, the contentious debate over reductions in taxes on oil and gas majors in Alaska has come to an end resolution at all (AD). That’s in part because of the difficulty selling the idea of reduced taxes to the public when we see headlines like this (EOTA) and this (AD) on ConocoPhillips’ earnings from its Alaska projects.

Oddly, it’s been a quiet week regarding drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Shell released word that it would be looking at bubble curtains to reduce subsea noise pollution from drilling, an idea that was met with derision and grim laughter on Twitter, and ThinkProgress published a wincingly accurate article pointing out the fact that, as long as the Coast Guard is the first line of defense for accidents in these areas, that means we, the taxpayers of America, are paying for that service. Must be nice for Shell.

In Norway, we heard that all of Maersk Drilling’s jack-up rigs are contracted through Q2 2014, which can only be good news for the company (AB), while Aker Solutions’ contract with Statoil to develop a 6km umbilical for the Svalin C project will bring it $70mn of revenue (AB). We also heard that seismic surveying of the formerly-disputed territory in the Barents has begun at the behest of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (, WSJ). Offshore Magazine reports that Norway is looking to acquire 30,000 km of seismic data this summer in three different areas.

Statoil’s chief of production and development for Norway said this week that he anticipates daily gross production of nearly 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Norway’s Arctic properties by 2020 (Reuters). Not all is well for Norway's most famous energy company, however. The debacle over announcements of cuts in pensions has the union seriously up in arms and in-company trust in CEO Helge Lund at a deep low (AB). Meanwhile, jobs in less well-paying sectors in Stavanger are going unfilled, as people can find nowhere to live that fits within their budgets (AB). At average rents of $2,250 a month for an apartment (choke! splutter!), that doesn’t surprise me. I thought Washington was bad! And all those mouth-watering new discoveries in the High North face the same challenge in Norway that they do in Russia: will they be better off with LNG shipping or building a pipeline? Either choice will require the building of huge quantities of new infrastructure (see this great article from Alastair Reed at BusinessWeek).

On the minerals side of things, the US Coast Guard is quite appropriately freaking out a little bit at the likely onslaught of bubble-gum-and-duct-tape dredging boats on their way to Alaska to dredge for gold (AD). Thanks, TV. You’re the best. Next door in Canada, the Québec provincial government is getting involved with Plan Nord via $1bn assigned to its investment arm, Resources Québec (Montreal Gazette). ArcelorMittal might be looking to expand its iron ore work in that province, although the province’s royalties are substantially higher than those elsewhere in the country (Huffington Post, in French).

On the European side of the Arctic, the Russian government is selling its stake of 34% in the seaport of Murmansk. This could be a bonanza for a coal-company Suek and its billionaire owner Andrey Melnichenko (, Bloomberg). The difficult relationship between Russia’s mining firms and indigenous groups in Chukotka was pictured in high relief at the IPY2012 conference in Montreal (NN). Finally, Bloomberg suggested that it might be necessary to rejuvenate and develop mines in Greece, Albania and Finland to supply European industry with rare earth elements.


Little Diomede island, a tiny American town isolated in the middle of the Bering Strait, is facing problems one wouldn’t expect, like drug use. Alaska Dispatch explores what a warming Arctic may mean to the community, and what its future might look like. Better and more regular connectivity with the mainland could be either a good thing or a bad thing. Weekly helicopter service looks like it’s in the works (

Communication in Canada’s North became an issue this week when a helicopter cut the above-ground fiber-optic cables that provide long distance and cell phone service for Inuvik and elsewhere (CBC). Laying those cables, and particularly burying them to protect them from such eventualities, can be an enormously expensive undertaking (Yukon News). Indeed, telecom in the North is no less a problem for the military than it is for civilians, as Brigadier General Rick Pitre pointed out at a conference this week (Chronicle Herald). Perhaps wireless communications are more robust? We’ll find out, as wireless spectrum for Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon is being sold this week - pretty cheaply, in comparison with spectrum for better-populated areas (Reuters).

The following deserves a special mention: Sara Statham at McGill has conducted some thoughtful research on the issue of climate change and food security in Nunavut. Poverty is a significant problem in the territory, and "country food" has powerful cultural aspects that, when it is unavailable, can mean not just physical but psychological impact for residents. I was fascinated to see that that a Facebook sell/swap group is one of many social tools being used to mitigate the issue somewhat. Ms. Statham's presentation of the research is also really, really nice. It’s odd to read at the same time that the economy of Nunavut grew quickest of all provinces and territories in Canada last year, at 7.7% (NN). Tightly integrated with poverty is of course health, and the vitriol over proposed cuts to the health systems that support Canada’s aboriginal groups is clearly flowing in this Huffington Post editorial from the Honorable Carolyn Bennett, targeted at Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq.

In native communities in Greenland, the issue of diet is just as important for the simple reason that many sea mammals contain unsafe levels of various poisonous chemicals (EOTA). If you’d like, take a look at this captivating photo essay on what constitutes a traditional diet.

The contrast between the purposefulness with which health is treated in Greenland and in Canada is pretty dramatic, as highlighted by a recent initiative to encourage Greenlandic doctors to complete their medical educations in Greenland, rather than in Denmark (NN). Even in large urban areas in the US, what one might call “community pathologies” can be an enormous issue. Fairbanks and Anchorage came in near the top of a list of cities in which sexual violence is a serious problem (AD).

On the education side of things, a consortium of Canada’s top universities has signed an MOU with institutions in the country’s three Northern provinces to offer some of the same support to students from the rural North as is provided to students from abroad (Nunavut Echo). Meanwhile, the University of Tromsø and the University Center in Svalbard have both received record numbers of applicants this year (BO). Congratulations!


Across industries, Canada is looking at reducing the paperwork and red tape that accompanies bringing foreign workers into the country. Not eliminating it, mind you, but speeding it up, certainly (CBC). Also in Canada, a majority (51%) Inuit-owned company, Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping, has won the Government of Nunavut’s contract for six sailings to handle “all shipments for government departments, agencies and construction projects in Iqaluit” for 2012 (NN). Growth in shipping as an industry in the North comes with risks, and the Canadian military has been training to “swoop in” and conduct rescue operations after disasters in the Arctic (video).


The infrastructure necessary to respond to maritime disasters is still rudimentary (EOTA), as highlighted in the recently-released report on the grounding of the cruise ship Clipper Adventurer in Canadian waters (NN), which now looks to have been an information failure more than anything else. At this remove, however, there’s some finger-pointing going on to assign blame (CBC). Improvements are necessary, clearly, as some are even suggesting that the Arctic may be open to regular shipping by 2017 (CBC). The need for a solid polar code from the UN’s International Maritime Organization has also become clearer and clearer (NN), but development has been postponed until 2013, and pressure from the Arctic states will probably be necessary to make it happen even then.

 TAI’s Kathrin Keil points out in an article this week that a free Arctic does not mean an easy Arctic; meeting demands for increased infrastructure and better, more frequently-updated intelligence on the environment will be difficult and expensive. You can read a bit about the US Coast Guard’s thoughts on the matter and related activities in this statement from Admiral Robert Papp before a House subcommittee. It’s not new (Dec 2011), but it’s pretty packed with good information and worth the read. (Side note: I’m not sure if this still stands, but in the same statement, Admiral Papp points out that the US National Marine Fisheries Service had established a moratorium on commercial fishing in the US EEZ North of the Bering Strait. This was true as of Dec 2011.) The UK’s Foreign Office has meanwhile warned its citizens of the dangers of traveling to the Arctic, saying quite accurately that “the combined search and rescue ship capacity may well be less than would be needed to cope with even one of the small cruise ships that frequent parts of the Arctic area” (Daily Mail). Icebreakers are a big component of that capacity, of course. Norwegian authorities monitored the Rossiya, oldest of Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreakers, as it sailed northward from the Gulf of Finland to Murmansk (BO). It will be joining the rest of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet this summer for work on the Northern Sea Route and elsewhere (BO).


An open letter from 2,000 scientists delivered at the start of the International Polar Year conference urged governments to set a moratorium in place on trawling in the central Arctic Ocean until research has established what is there, how much of it there is, and how best to manage it (CBC). The CEO of Royal Greenland seemed to support strict regulations as well (NN), but Nunavut Tunngavik Inc’s vice-president James Eetoolook disagrees, preferring generally “responsible” and “sustainable” guidelines. I don’t believe there were further details as to what, specifically, that might entail (NN). The Alaska King and Snow Crab Bering Sea Commercial Fisheries have been meanwhile certified sustainable according to FAO-based Responsible Fisheries Management standards (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). The FAO is a UN-based body; for the pertinent criteria, see here.

On the positive end of the spectrum, turbot fisheries in Pangnirtung have been going gangbusters this year, thanks in part to nice, thick ice and in part to a sudden bump in demand from China. It's really amazing to think of line-caught fish being hauled through the ice in Nunavut and shipped to China, though I guess I ought not to marvel at such things anymore (NN). Also in large measure because of swelling demand from China, Alaska’s fisheries grew by leaps and bounds - 35% - over 2010, with net value of $2.5bn in 2011 (AD). On Alaska's North Slope, the haul of bowhead whales in five communities has been a cause of great celebration. This year's catch of thirteen (unconfirmed) is both a real chore in the preparation and a real boon in the food supply it provides (AD). We also learned this week that Russian and Norwegian businesses are collaborating on aquaculture in the North (, in part because the Murmansk region doesn’t have enough of a flourishing business to justify development of its own businesses to manufacture equipment (BN).


Gro Harlem Brundtland, who gave the keynote speech Monday at IPY2012 in Montreal, advocated "serious and strict regulation" and avoidance of a laissez-faire attitude towards climate change in her interview with the Globe and Mail. She also expressed a very diplomatic level of impatience with the pace of global activity to mitigate climate change, pointing out that, although we are now twenty years out from the Rio declaration, not much has changed (Arctic Portal). The World Wide Fund for Nature presented a scenario-sketching tool, Rapid Assessment of Circum-Arctic Ecosystem Resilience, to deliver a similar message, and to point to the likely course of the Arctic’s future.

Also at IPY, Professor Christopher Rapley of University College London presented research demonstrating that part of the problem for us in dealing with climate change is our natural human tendency to trust our emotions and beliefs rather than concrete evidence in cases when the two conflict. Hardly a revolutionary idea, but certainly an important one (NN). In part to tackle that problem, a massive long-term International Polar Initiative intended to serve as a framework for collaboration on research, services and outreach was proposed at the International Polar Year. For the full proposal, see here. The Government of Nunavut has undertaken its own education initiative, offering its own climate change data and resources on-line (NN).

Meanwhile, Environment Canada's instructions to scientists regarding their interactions with press caused a flurry of disapproval both in the scientific and media communities, who see these guidelines as restrictive and KGB-esque. Speaking only for myself, I see the guidelines and admonitions as, regrettably, very standard-issue. This is the way the world works these days. Relatedly, a blog via the New York Times offered no quarter to Discovery for self-censoring in its documentary series “Frozen Planet,” in which it chose to abstain from discussing climate change. It makes me sad, but I understand why Discovery made the choice, as - regardless of which side of the issue you're on - even taking a fairly measured tone on the issue just invites heaps of hate mail. Look at the buffeting they’re taking for electing not to discuss it at all.

One group of scientists has recently returned from Barneo station, a Russian floating research station near the North Pole, after participating in a joint Norway-China research project on the impact that solar radiation has on climate change ( Another group of scientists has also left their research station, North Pole-39, but in this case because the ice floe on which it is stationed is breaking up (BO). China, it seems, will also be putting its first Arctic research station into operation this summer, to which it will be welcoming a group of scientists from six different countries (RIAN, in Russian).

Explorer-in-residence of the National Geographic Society Sylvia Earle wrote a nice piece on the Huffington Post trying to highlight the interconnection between our modern selves and the Arctic ecosystem. The Guardian simultaneously posted an article which, at least to my eye, highlights the general hopelessness of trying to generate action against climate change without forcing people into direct, life-affecting confrontation with it. In further grim news, it’s possible that a new source of atmospheric methane is life within the Arctic Ocean itself. The scientists behind this research are very careful to say that this is not a major contributor yet, but interesting nonetheless (

Our most heartfelt congratulations go to Dr. Alexey Pavlov, newly announced as the head of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), as well as to Margaret Darrow of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for her National Science Foundation grant to study how permafrost reacts to human activity and climate change (U of Alaska Fairbanks). Other research on the relationship between climate and ground temperature should be coming out in the next issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (Science Daily).

Moving on to our feathered, furred and finned friends, the Ottawa Citizen highlighted some timely, spot-on, fascinating and well-written new research on incongruities in our conservation efforts. It examines why certain animals resonate as conservation targets while others languish. Five stars. One particular animal that’s had a lot of media attention this week is Iceberg, an all-white orca last spotted in the North Pacific. Russian scientists are off on an expedition to try to track him down (Telegraph). While we know that some popular species are declining Arctic-wide, others are growing ( The full Arctic Species Trend Index is available here, and even the executive summary points to the extremely mixed portrait of the Arctic as a whole. A broadly-syndicated article, linked to here in the Montreal Gazette, referred to another massive study with very negative results, but didn’t link to the study itself, so I’m not sure if theirs is simply a different take on the same paper. A blog from Nature plucks the data point that Arctic bird species are declining from the paper, but fails to go into more detail about the ways in which that breaks down by, for instance, pointing out that populations of Arctic nesting geese have nearly doubled since the ‘70s. It thus gives a somewhat distorted picture. Meanwhile, a further census of polar bears is being taken jointly by Nunavut and Greenland (NN). Results, whenever they arrive, are sure to inspire further angry letters from one camp or the other. One wonders whether they will find any of the “grolar” bears - grizzly/polar hybrids - that have been popping up in increasing numbers in the Northwest Territories (CBC).

Now on to miscellaneous but noteworthy science news. First, thanks are due to the military medical staff who fly in to remote communities in Alaska. They don’t just help people; they’re also tasked with helping those most important members of the family, our pets (FNM). And a good thing, as common illnesses like kennel cough can spread quickly (NNSO) even in the High North.

Thanks are also due to Dr. James Ford of McGill University for mapping out a wealth of research on adaptive capacity to climate change, helping us see which studies go with which communities in Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.

We learned this week that the Chukchi Sea isn’t just wild and woolly on top, it’s also an incredibly variable environment beneath the surface. And it’s slightly higher in the South than in the North (ADN), a factoid that will make you sound both smart and weird when you share it at your next dinner party.

The European Space Agency’s ENVISAT has been radio-silent since 8 April, and it doesn’t look like it’s coming back anytime soon. This is a big challenge for environmental research, which has come to depend in significant ways on data from this and other satellites (Nature). To make up for it, CRYOSAT has been providing data on ice volume that has fed into the single best - if brief - visualization of the growth of the ice cap over a season that I have ever seen (BBC). So clear!

Some 400-1000 year-old graves have been found near the Arctic coast in the Northwest Territories (CBC). It looks as though they will not be excavated. Also in Canada, the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project put together a captivating (yes, captivating) PowerPoint which looks at the philosophical challenges that go along with paying individuals to, in essence, be both researchers and subjects in anthropological studies (


One of our reads of the week is this long and detailed post on some of the amazing and surprising challenges that confront mushers training for major races (Frontier Scientists).

The Russian teenagers tasked with skiing to the North Pole made it, apparently (


In Murmansk, a youth center has been seeing some probably-not-merely-coincidental changes in its relationship with local authorities after flaunting commands not to screen the German documentary “Khodorkovsky.” (BO)

This new Russian company’s purview will not extend to much of Russia’s Arctic, but the giant new corporation intended to manage development in Siberia and Russia’s Eastern regions is particularly noteworthy because of the unprecedented independence and power it will have (Russia Today, UPI). Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin panned the deal, pointing out that the presence in the market of such a state-supported development monopolist would strongly discourage external investors (RIAN).

I can’t improve on a sentence like this one, from “A man from the Bering Sea village of Hooper Bay has been awarded a half million dollars for being excessively tasered by village police officers.”

A "surprise" solar storm brought aurora watchers an unexpected gift this week; predictions were for excellent levels of activity across Alaska, Canada and the US (AD).

Forest fire season is about to get underway in Arkhangelsk oblast and across Russia’s timbered reaches, and forestry operations are getting ready (Lesprom).

The spring breakup in Alaska has not been as bad as previously feared, thank goodness. The weather has been cooperative (EOTA).

A territory-mandated new water plant for the city of Yellowknife has meant a new $20mn in borrowing for the municipality (CBC).

It didn't even occur to me that there might be such a thing as Occupy Fairbanks, waiting it out in -40 degree weather. But apparently there was (AD). Now that, my friends, is commitment. And warm clothing.


Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Moscow Times (MT)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Today (RT)