The Year 2013 in Review: The Most Popular Stories, Links, and Tweets

Courtesy of Greenland_com on flickr
Happy New Year! From all of us here at The Arctic This Week and from the entire staff of The Arctic Institute, we would like to wish you a happy New Year and thank each of you for your support and interest throughout the previous year. It’s been an exciting year for us here at TATW and TAI. The TATW subscriber list has grown from hundreds to over 1,500 subscriber. TATW editions received over 69000 unique visits on the TAI website this year alone! The Arctic Institute’s research and analysis has continued to reach a broader audience and garner increased recognition from the media, think tanks and government. Thanks for helping us along the way!

To express our gratitude, we’d like to provide you with not one, but THREE different top-ten lists that sum up what has been a great year from us here at The Arctic Institute. The first is the top ten most popular links from this year’s editions of TATW, measured by the number of times a link was opened from our newsletter. The list provides an interesting snapshot of the top stories from the Arctic this year, and the writing and analysis that we all found the most interesting and compelling. Our second top ten list is the most popular research and analysis reports published by TAI staff this year, ranging from TAI Executive Director Malte Humpert’s much cited piece on China’s interests in the Northern Sea Route, to Fellow Andreas Østhagen’s analysis of Arctic oil and gas and TAI’s Europe Director Kathrin Keil’s unpacking of the “race” for Arctic resources. Finally, our third top ten list contains the most retweeted tweets from Twitter account, @ArcticInstitute, highlighting what has been popular over social media. If you don’t follow us yet on Twitter, this is a great introduction to TAI’s social media presence!

Thank you for all of your support through 2013 and we sincerely hope that you continue to follow us throughout the coming year. We always love to hear from our readers, so please feel free to contact us at any time. We’ll resume with full publication of TATW beginning January 8th, 2014. Looking forward to seeing you in the New Year!

  1. Major Icebreakers of the World, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Waterways and Ocean Policy – Our most-clicked link was actually not an article, but this helpful infographic from the USCG showing the world’s icebreakers arrayed by country. A stark reminder that Russia has, far and away, the most impressive icebreaker fleet in the world.
  2. Stephen Harper, the Austin Powers of the Arctic, Michael Byers (Toronto Star) – Coverage of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Arctic tour (junket?) flooded the media for several weeks in August and September, though this article by Michael Byers from the University of British Columbia certainly rose to the top. Byers kept us grinning and wincing with this deft take-down of Harper’s posturing on the Arctic, which reads as well today as it did three months ago.
  3. Shell's Arctic Vessels: To Asia For Major Repairs, Anacortes Area For Tests, John Ryan (KUOW) – Remember this time last year as we watched, blow-by-blow, as Shell’s 2012 drilling season foundered on the rocks off Alaska’s coast? A little over a month later it appeared that Shell admitted defeat when it announced that its two flagship rigs, the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer, would be dispatched to Asia for extensive repairs.
  4. Will Shell's grounded drilling ship impact US energy policy in Arctic? Alex DeMarban and Suzanna Caldwell (Alaska Dispatch) – The staff of the Alaska Dispatch has provided exceptional coverage throughout the year of Shell’s Arctic drilling campaign, beginning with this fantastic article by DeMarban and Caldwell from 2 January 2013 which was the first to explore the extensive fallout of Shell’s accident-prone 2012 drilling season.
  5. Who owns the Arctic, Baden Copeland and Derek Watkins (NY Times) – Another infographic made our top ten list, this one graphically displaying the relationship between oil and gas potential in the Arctic and territorial claims by the Arctic states. The infographic accompanied a popular article by Michael Klare titled “Rushing for the Arctic’s Riches” that was one of numerous articles that speculated on the “race” for Arctic resources following Extended Continental Shelf Claims by Canada and Denmark in November and December.
  6. The Next Supermodel (The Economist) – This short article introduced a special report touting the economic model of the Nordic countries in, of all places, the Economist.  
  7. Northern Beacon, Carl Bildt (NY Times) - This article by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt preceded the meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna in May of this year. Bildt holds up the Council as an example of proactive diplomacy that can be used as a model to guide interstate relations in other maritime regions.
  8. Tequila Sunset (The Economist) – While others have addressed the dubious nature of the “race” for the Arctic’s oil and gas resources, this concise article in the Economist skillfully summarizes current scientific research that has led many to believe that a warming Arctic will not be a boon for fisheries, and a “race” for the Arctic’s seafood is as unlikely as a “race” for the region’s oil and gas.
  9. Harper’s Arctic tour conceals shift in circumpolar politics, Heather Exner-Pirot (Eye on the Arctic) – For a different take on Harper’s Arctic policies, see this insightful article from Heather Exner-Pirot on the overlooked shift from politically-driven humdrum regarding conflict in the Arctic to tentative cooperation on security issues between the Arctic states. We’ll see next year if this burgeoning cooperation can resist calls by hard-liners across the Arctic to maximize territorial claims to the central Arctic.  
  10. Hot war over Arctic resources, Jeffrey Mazo (International Institute for Security Studies) – Wrapping up the top ten from TATW is this short article that provides a refreshing new perspective on the “conflict over resources” narrative that dominated less-informed commentary this year. Mazo looks at the dispute over Arctic whaling in the 17th century and how its resolution echoes current diplomacy in the Arctic.
  1. The Future of Arctic Shipping - A New Silk Road for China? Malte Humpert – In this article, selected as a top ten read for 2013 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Humpert clearly shows how the warming Arctic will not become a major trade route for China due to vessel size limitations on the Northern Sea Route and the fact that China’s major trading partners will be more accessible through traditional trade routes rather than across the Arctic.
  2. The Myth of Arctic Shipping - Why the Northern Sea Route is Still of Limited Geo-Economic Importance, Kathrin Keil and Andreas Raspotnik – In their analysis of increasing shipping along the Northern Sea Route, Keil and Raspotnik show that the increased traffic is largely due to intra-Arctic shipping along the Russian coast, not to trans-Arctic shipping. The NSR, they conclude, will be of limited geo-economic influence despite increased traffic.
  3. The Questionable Arctic Bonanza – Exaggerated Hopes and False Images of the Arctic as "Prime Real Estate", Kathrin Keil – The common depiction of the Arctic as a treasure trove of natural resources not only overstates the economic potential of the region, but also masks many of the difficult problems that resource development poses for policy makers in the Arctic’s states.  
  4. The Arctic Council: Underpinning Stability in the Arctic, Matthew Willis – It’s strange to remember that only a few years ago political scientists were predicting growing regional conflict in the Arctic. Even stranger is the fact that the media still talks of a new “Cold War” in Arctic, despite increasing signs of cooperation between the Arctic states. Willis’ article looks at the important role the Arctic Council has played in fostering this cooperative environment in the Arctic and the promise it holds for the future.
  5. Opening Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic - A Conflict and Risk Assessment, Kathrin Keil – This article, an extract from a longer article available at Tvergastein Interdisciplinary Journal of the Environment, looks at the potential that oil and gas development in the Arctic might lead to conflict. Keil concludes that while the potential for conflict is low, mechanisms for resolving disputes and setting standards for oil and gas development are limited.
  6. U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region: Strong Foothold or on Thin Ice?, Mihaela David – In response to the release of the U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic in May of this year, David provides an overview of what the strategy contains and, more importantly what it does not contain. “Despite a good faith effort at articulating policy priorities and formulating mutually-reinforcing objectives,” David writes, “the U.S. Arctic strategy remains as elusive as a mirage on the Arctic ice-sheet. The strategy is toothless in the absence of a comprehensive implementation strategy and long-term budgetary plan.”
  7. Arctic Oil and Gas: Assessing the Potential for Hydrocarbon Development in the Polar Region, Andreas Østhagen – In this concise article, Østhagen argues that economic, environmental and political obstacles must be accounted for in any accurate assessment of the oil and gas resource potential of the Arctic.
  8. Moving Mosaic: The Arctic Governance Debate, Kathrin Keil – With the opening of the Arctic Circle this year, speculation swirled around whether this new, inclusive body would overshadow the Arctic Council. Keil concludes that differences in the membership and scope of the two institutions will prevent significant overlap and competition and that the two will stake out different territories in the “Arctic governance mosaic.” 
  9. Review: Arctic Governance and Japan’s Foreign Strategy, Aki Tonami – Aki Tonami, a researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen, provides a helpful overview of the Japanese Institute of International Affairs’ report on Arctic governance and Japan’s foreign policy, released in April.
  10. Hedging Bets: Oil and Gas in the Canadian Arctic, Andreas Østhagen – Even though significant oil and gas deposits exist in Canada’s north, Andreas Østhagen argues that a combination of economic factors, lack of infrastructure, and absence of regional and national interest in development will continue to hamper any expansion of oil and gas extraction in Canada’s Arctic in the short and medium-term.
  1. A core read for #IdleNoMore - @Pam_Palmater 's piece in @OttawaCitizen
  2. The Myth of #Arctic #Shipping - Why the Northern Sea Route is Still of Limited Geo-Economic Importance #NSR
  3. Yet another jaw-dropping photo from the outstanding @NunavutBirder #Nunavut #Arctic #Iceberg
  4. 10 fascinating historic #Arctic maps from Canadian Geographic and 9 cool new ones from us.
  5. Excellent article explaining the rush to develop the Russian #Arctic, and the problems involved @ArcticYearbook
  6. "One voice from an Inuit hunter can be more significant than 100 scientists" via @sciam #Arctic
  7. Dreaming big: Railway from Finland to Norway's #Arctic coast? via @BarentsObserver 
  8. Russian "environmental" group: Murmansk pollution from Norway, not Norilsk Nikel smelters @bellona_murman
  9. #Arctic adventure: Crew rowing the Northwest Passage almost taken under by rogue ice floe. via @vancouversun
  10. #Arctic Council is presiding over emerging “stability architecture” based not on military, but on common interests