ARCTIC NATION: Obama Visit; Melting Ice Signposts; Walrus Woes; Russia Stakes a Claim

August 14, 2015 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

North to Alaska.

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama announced today (August 13) that he will journey to the Alaskan Arctic at the end of the month. In a video released by the White House, Obama — who is vacationing in New England — said he’s going to Alaska because it is on the “front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“You see, climate change once seemed like a problem for future generations, but for most Americans, it’s already a reality,” Obama added. The Times noted that Obama’s August 31 to September 3 trip to see melting glaciers and speak with hunters and fisherman in Alaska would be the first Arctic visit by a sitting president.

Later in September, Obama plans to talk with Pope Francis about climate change when the pontiff visits the White House during a tour of the northeastern U.S., as both prepare for an international climate summit in Paris in December, he Times said.

The White House described Obama’s trip as part of an “all-out push” on climate-change issues during the final 18 months of his second term, the Wall Street Journal reported. The trip comes just weeks after his administration’s release of standards to limit carbon emissions from power plants — a move widely criticized by Republicans as hurful to the economy and costly for consumer, the Journal noted.

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Ice Melts, Maps Change.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

So much sea ice has melted in the Arctic recently that the National Geographic’s annual Atlas of the World has had to revise its map of the Arctic Ocean.

The 10th edition of the annually published atlas — released in September — includes a map of the Arctic Ocean that looks dramatically different from 15 years ago, according to the website Quartz.

The melting ice hasn’t stopped since last fall, and it’s likely to have shrunk even further than the newly published maps now reflect, said Juan Jose Valdes, a geographer with the magazine.

To see the maps, including an animated one showing how Arctic sea ice has melted  between 1999 and 2014, click here.

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They am the Walrus.

For the second year in a row, walruses in the Arctic are running out of sea ice and may begin crowding onto a small beaches in northern Alaska.

Walruses prefer to spend their time out on the Arctic sea ice, which allows them a resting place in the open ocean where food is abundant. In the summer, when sea ice begins to melt, walruses typically follow the retreating ice north and migrate back south again when the ice refreezes in the fall, according to the Washington Post.

But last year, sea ice in the Chukchi sea between Alaska and Russia dropped to such low levels — an increasingly common occurrence as climate change dramatically reshapes the Arctic — that tens of thousands of walruses in the area were forced to drag themselves onto the Alaskan shore in search of res. And this year, ice is already low enough again that it’s looking like it could happen again soon, the Post said.

*** *** ***

Claim Jumper?

Like gold miners in the Yukon at the turn of the 20th Century,  Russia has formally staked a claim with the United Nations to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole — and all the riches that may lie beneath the ice.

The foreign ministry said in a statement August 4 that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Arctic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore, the Associated Press reported.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration, according to the AP.

 Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence. It submitted a partial revision regarding the Okhotsk Sea in 2013 and the commission issued a recommendation the following year, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
*** *** ***

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the  High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the Arctic. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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Entry filed under: Arctic, HIGH NORTH, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Technology. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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