Trump administration takes key step to open Alaskan wildlife refuge to drilling by end of year

Trump administration takes key step to open Alaskan wildlife refuge to drilling by end of year

SOURCE: The Hill DATE: September 12, 2019 SNIP: The Trump administration announced a key step toward opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration Thursday, rolling out a plan that would see lease sales occur by the end of the year. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its finalized Environmental Impact Statement, which favors the option to offer lease sales across 1.56 million acres of Alaska’s coastal plains. “After rigorous review, robust public comment, and a consideration of a range of alternatives, today’s announcement is a big step to carry out the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain, a program the people of Alaska have been seeking for over 40 years,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. Under law, the BLM now has a 30-day waiting period before it can open up calls from fossil fuel companies for tracts to bid on and file its finalized Notice of Decision. Officials say they anticipate holding lease sales before the end of the year. Critics warn that oil and gas development in ANWR would wreak havoc on populations of Porcupine caribou, polar bears and migratory...
Climate crisis: Greenland’s ice faces melting ‘death sentence’

Climate crisis: Greenland’s ice faces melting ‘death sentence’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 3, 2019 SNIP: Greenland’s massive ice sheet may have melted by a record amount this year, scientists have warned. During this year alone, it lost enough ice to raise the average global sea level by more than a millimetre. Researchers say they’re “astounded” by the acceleration in melting and fear for the future of cities on coasts around the world. One glacier in southern Greenland has thinned by as much as 100 metres since I last filmed on it back in 2004. Another revelation is that the ice is not only being melted by the air, as the atmosphere heats up, but also by warmer water reaching underneath the fronts of the glaciers. One Nasa scientist describes the ice as being under a hair-dryer and at the same time also on a cooker. One of the scientists studying the ice sheet, Dr Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), says he’s unnerved by the potential dangers and that coastal planners need to “brace themselves”. “Now that I’m starting to understand more of the consequences, it’s actually keeping me awake at night because I realise the significance of this place around the world and the livelihoods that are already affected by sea level rise,” he told me. According to Dr Box, it’s the recent increase in the average temperature that’s being felt in Greenland’s ice: “Already effectively that’s a death sentence for the Greenland ice sheet because also going forward in time we’re expecting temperatures only to climb,” he said. “So, we’re losing Greenland – it’s really a question of how...
Why the Arctic is Smouldering

Why the Arctic is Smouldering

SOURCE: BBC DATE: August 27, 2019 SNIP: The Arctic is transforming before our eyes: the ice caps are melting, the tree-line is shifting northwards, starving polar bears wander into cities. The region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, largely due to changes in albedo – the loss of sunlight-reflecting ice and snow, replaced by sunlight-absorbing ocean and soil. This is driving a dangerous positive feedback cycle where heating spirals into more heating. And, now, the Arctic isn’t only losing its ice. It is being set ablaze. Gargantuan forest fires in Siberia, which burned for more than three months, created a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. More than four million hectares of Siberian taiga forest went up in flames, the Russian military were deployed, people across the region were choked by the smoke, and the cloud spread to Alaska and beyond. Fires have also raged in the boreal forests of Greenland, Alaska and Canada. Though images of blazing infernos in the Arctic Circle might be shocking to many, they come as little surprise to Philip Higuera, a fire ecologist at the University of Montana, in the US, who has been studying blazes in the Arctic for more than 20 years. “I’m not surprised – these are all the things we have been predicting for decades,” he says. A key tipping point, he says, is an average July temperature of 13.4C over a 30-year period. Much of the Alaskan tundra has been perilously close to this threshold between 1971 and...
Huge wildfires in the Arctic and far North send a planetary warning

Huge wildfires in the Arctic and far North send a planetary warning

SOURCE: PBS DATE: August 18, 2019 SNIP: The planet’s far North is burning. This summer, over 600 wildfires have consumed more than 2.4 million acres of forest across Alaska. Fires are also raging in northern Canada. In Siberia, choking smoke from 13 million acres – an area nearly the size of West Virginia – is blanketing towns and cities. Fires in these places are normal. But, as studies here at the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Center show, they are also abnormal. My colleagues and I are examining the complex relationships between warming climate, increasing fire and shifting patterns of vegetation. Using locally focused climate data and models from the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, the research group I help coordinate, we are finding evidence that is deeply worrying – not just for those of us who live within the fires’ pall of smoke, but for the world. Recent fires are too frequent, intense and severe. They are reducing older-growth forest in favor of young vegetation, and pouring more carbon into the atmosphere at a time when carbon dioxide concentrations are setting new records. The overall increase in burning can be hard to detect and measure because of enormous natural variability. This summer’s fires in Alaska were driven by an intense early-season heat wave. The relationship between hot dry weather and fire is clear. Climate change is causing an equally clear trend toward earlier springs and longer, hotter...
Alaska’s sea ice has completely melted away

Alaska’s sea ice has completely melted away

SOURCE: Mashable DATE: August 5, 2019 SNIP: Alaska’s exceptional summer continues. The most rapidly changing state in the U.S. has no sea ice within some 150 miles of its shores, according to high-resolution sea ice analysis from the National Weather Service. The big picture is clear: After an Arctic summer with well above-average temperatures, warmer seas, and a historic July heat wave, sea ice has vanished in Alaskan waters. “Alaska waters are ice free,” said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. “This is definitely an extreme year — even by more recent standards in a changed Arctic,” noted Walt Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Arctic sea ice has been either been at record lows or flirting with record lows throughout much of the summer. “I’m losing the ability to communicate the magnitude [of change],” Jeremy Mathis, a longtime Arctic researcher and current board director at the National Academies of Sciences, told Mashable in June, when sea ice levels were at their lowest point in the satellite record for that period. “I’m running out of adjectives to describe the scope of change we’re...