The Arctic This Week: 10 February - 17 February, 2014

With kind permission of ilovegreenland on
The Arctic This Week 2014:7

Welcome and thanks for joining us this week! The staff of TATW is taking a breather so we will only be sharing the best Arctic reads from this week with you today.  We will return to full production of TATW next week. If you find TATW useful and fun to read, please share it with others. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here.

As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment, to point out an error or to request a back issue, feel free to contact us directly. Anything that we missed? Please feel free to share material with us if you think it deserves inclusion in TATW.


The Arctic Institute maintains and provides access to a list of Arctic-themed conferences, workshops, and events. You can access the list by clicking on the following link:

Please help us keep this list up to date! If you would like to add an event to the list, please submit the required information including the event’s name, dates, location, description, website address and contact information using this submission form. The list will be updated weekly and a link to the list will be provided each week in TATW.


The Arctic Institute is partnering with The High North Center at Bodø Graduate School of Business, University of Nordland, to help facilitate the upcoming conference, Arctic Dialogue 2014.  The conference, which will take place 18-20 March in Bodø, Norway, will focus on challenges and opportunities of exploration and utilization of the resources in the Arctic. Confirmed speakers include Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, NUNAOIL Director Hans Kristian Olsen, Captain Jonathan Spaner of the U.S. Coast Guard and Dr. Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia. For a detailed agenda and information on registration, see the event’s website at


This week’s hottest item of political news was the U.S. State Department’s plan to appoint an Arctic representative (Dept. of State). News of the decision became public when Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich received letters from Secretary of State John Kerry informing them of State’s plans and requesting their input in selecting the new representative (ADN). Both Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski’s offices issued press releases following the decision. Begich’s office framed the development as validation of the senator’s continued calls for the new position, while senator Murkowski called the development “welcome” but questioned whether the “special representative” will serve the role of an ambassador, the type of position she has “consistently recommended.” Murkowski, who wrote a letter to President Obama earlier last week criticizing the White House’s Arctic Implementation Plan (AD), said the new role “demands a high level official with expertise and Arctic knowledge.” To read Kerry’s letter to Begich, see

Since we’re putting out a shorter edition this week, to get your politics fix read “A New Model for Arctic Cooperation,” posted by TAI’s Kathrin Keil for SGI News, and “How to understand Russia’s Arctic strategy,” written by Dmitry Gorenburg for the Washington Post. Keil’s piece highlights the Arctic governance model as a shining example of “right-sized,” “as big as necessary” policymaking. Gorenburg’s article unpacks Russia’s approach to the Arctic, categorizing Russian policy based on two divergent paths, one that favors economic development through international cooperation, and another that uses “bellicose rhetoric” to reiterate Russia’s Arctic sovereignty and appease domestic audiences.

In energy reads this week, we’d like to offer two different perspectives on Arctic oil and gas development.  The first comes to us from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.  The February edition of the Association’s trade journal Explorer focuses on Arctic oil and gas exploration with interesting articles on oil spill tech, the next generation of ice breakers, and lessons learned from Arctic oil veterans. In a different vein, the Carbon Brief profiles a recent study published in Energy Policy which concludes that Arctic and unconventional oil are basically unburnable if any progress is to be made on curbing carbon emissions over the coming decades.

A focus of the science news this week has been the potential and actual dangers of contagious diseases and transferable parasites for Arctic wildlife, a problem made more acute by climate change. While wild dogs in the Norwegian Pasvik valley, Finnmark, worry authorities due to possible infections with illnesses like rabies or tapeworms (BO), the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which is dangerous to people with weak immune systems, has been found in Beluga whales in the western Arctic (BBC). The melting of the Arctic sea ice is removing a critical barrier which so far has prevented not only the cat parasite but also the parasite Sarcocystis, now identified in gray seals, from moving north (Science).

In Arctic military news, both Russia and Canada are refitting and reorganizing to better operate in the Arctic. After over a decade of operations in decidedly un-Arctic Afghanistan, Canada is taking steps to “‘reacquaint’ soldiers with cold-weather warfare.” To that end, this weekend will mark the beginning of Exercise Trillium Response 14 focusing on operations in Arctic conditions (AJ). Russia has announced the creation of a new command responsible for the Arctic region, which will be operational by 2015. The new Northern Fleet–Unified Strategic Command will “‘comprise the Northern Fleet, Arctic warfare brigades, air force and air defense units as well as additional administrative structures,’” according to a RIA-Novosti source in the General Staff (RIAN).

There were several items of note in the industry section this week. A session at the upcoming Arctic Business Forum will focus on mining in the European high north and an article in Finland Times provides some background on the scheduled speakers as well as an explanation as to why Finland consistently ranks as one of the best places to do business within the mining industry. Next, Swedwood, an IKEA subsidiary, has lost its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate due to its unsustainable logging practices in Karelia, Russia. According to the environmental group Protect the Forest, the company has clear-cut areas of virgin forest containing 200 to 600 year-old trees in the northwest of Karelia (BO). Finally, possibly the coolest and geekiest bit of Arctic-related news this week was unveiled at the Nuremburg Toy Fair. Groove Bricks posted photos of LEGO’s newest LEGO City subtheme, the Arctic. The new set, scheduled for release this summer, includes the “Arctic Snow Mobile,” the “Arctic Ice Crawler,” the “Arctic Outpost” and the “Arctic Base Camp.” Get excited!

In infrastructure news, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its report on the first year of its three-year study on building a deep-draft Arctic port system. The report is available on the Corps of Engineers’ Alaska District website.

Finally, in sports this week we have The Iron Dog – “the longest and toughest snowmachine race in the world.” The race is underway in Southcentral Alaska, with 37 two-person teams setting out the morning of 16 February. While there are concerns about unseasonably high temperatures affecting race conditions – as they have this season’s sled dog races – temperatures at the start were in the teens (AD).