Archive for January, 2010

Arctic write down chills Canadian Oil Sands

January 29, 2010

Canadian Oil Sands Trust, which holds the largest stake in the Syncrude Canada partnership, said its fourth-quarter profit fell 23% despite strengthening oil prices as it wrote down the value of some Arctic gas fields.

The trust said its net income fell to C$96 million (US$90 million), or 20 Canadian cents per unit, from C$124 million, or 26 Canadian cents, in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The drop came as the trust wrote down the value of Arctic gas fields it acquired for C$198 million in 2006 as a hedge against natural gas prices by C$148 million, Reuters reported. Without the charge, net income would have been C$244 million, or 50 Canadian cents per unit, beating analysts’ average profit estimate of 47 Canadian cents a unit.

The profit drop comes despite oil prices that rose from the year-ago quarter, when commodity prices plunged as the economic crisis took hold. Benchmark North American oil prices averaged $76.13 in the quarter, up 29% from the fourth quarter of 2008.

Cash from operating activities, used to pay distributions to unitholders, fell 30% to C$328 million, or 68 Canadian cents a unit, from C$466 million, or 97 Canadian cents.

The trust, which owns a 37% share in the Syncrude Canada oil sands project, said its share of production from the site north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, rose 8% to 119,287 barrels a day. It sold its synthetic crude for an average price of C$78.67 a barrel, up 13% from a year earlier.

Operating costs for the project during the quarter fell 6% to C$30.18 a barrel from C$32.10.

The trust also said it expects Syncrude’s 2010 production to be around 115 million barrels, or about 315,000 bpd, unchanged from an outlook released in October. However it warned that unplanned maintenance this month at the project’s upgrader, which converts tarry bitumen into refinery-ready synthetic crude, and a planned turnaround would lower first-quarter output.

Canadian Oil Sands Trust’s revenue for the quarter rose 17% to C$895 million.

For the year, net income fell 72% to C$432 million, or 89 Canadian cents per unit, from C$1.52 billion, or C$3.16, the Reuters report said.

Cash from operating activities fell 76% from 2008 to C$547 million, or C$1.13 a unit, from C$2.24 billion or C$4.66 per unit previously.

The trust’s share of Syncrude’s 2009 production fell 2.7% from the prior year to 103,129 barrels per day.

Canadian Oil Sands Trust units fell 36 Canadian cents to C$27.99 on the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday. The units have risen 63% over the past 12 months.

Original article here

Arctic ‘Melt Season’ Is Growing Longer, New Research Demonstrates

January 29, 2010

January 27, 2010 by Kathryn Hansen. New NASA-led research shows that the melt season for Arctic sea ice has lengthened by an average of 20 days over the span of 28 years, or 6.4 days per decade. The finding stems from scientists’ work to compile the first comprehensive record of melt onset and freeze-up dates — the “melt season” — for the entire Arctic.

The melt season begins each April when the sunless winter gives way to sunrise and spring, and water and air temperatures rise. By September, the sea ice shrinks to a minimum and begins refreezing, bringing the annual melt season to an end.

The longer melt season, described by Thorsten Markus of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in the — Oceans, has implications for the future of . Open water that appears earlier in the season absorbs more heat from the sun throughout summer, further warming the water and promoting more melting.

“This feedback process has always been present, yet with more extensive open water this feedback becomes even stronger and further boosts ice loss,” Markus said. “Melt is starting earlier, but the trend towards a later freeze-up is even stronger because of this feedback effect.”

Arctic 'Melt Season' Is Growing Longer, New Research DemonstratesResearchers analyzed satellite data for 10 different Arctic regions and found trends in melt and freeze onset days as well as trends in melt season length. Credit: NASA/Thorsten Markus
To examine melt season length, Markus and colleagues used data from satellite passive microwave sensors, which can “see” indications of melt. The result is an accurate account of the melt seasons from 1979 to 2007.
“Given that the ocean is nearly twice the size of the continental United States, it would be impossible to track change like this without long-term satellite records,” said Thomas Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Analyzing melt-season trends for 10 different Arctic regions, the research team discovered that melt season lengthened the most — more than 10 days per decade — in Hudson Bay, the East Greenland Sea, the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Some of that change is due to melt onset occurring about three days earlier per decade in some areas. Earlier melt means more heat can be absorbed by the , promoting more melting and later freeze-up dates — more than eight days per decade later in some areas. Only the Sea of Okhotsk turned up a shorter melt season. The reasons for the regional differences are currently being investigated.

“The onset of melting and melt season length are important variables for understanding the Arctic climate system,” Markus added. “Given the recent large losses of the Arctic summer ice cover, it has become critical to investigate the causes of the decline and the consequences of its continued decline.”

The lengthened melt season could impact more than just the Arctic ice and ocean. According to Markus, “marine ecosystems are very sensitive to changes in melt onset and freeze-up dates.”

“Changes in the ice cover may have profound effects on North America’s climate,” said Wagner. “Studies like this one show us how ice responds to variations in the ocean and atmosphere and improve the predictive models that will help us plan for climate change.”

Original article here

Polar bear shot in Iceland

January 29, 2010

A polar bear was spotted today in Thistilfjordur, northeast Iceland by a farm worker who was stood less than 100 metres from the bear when she noticed.
Police took the decision to shoot the bear, as conditions need to be right to affect a rescue – chief among them the stipulation that people not be endangered.

The bear’s arrival in Iceland is highly unusual. Two polar bears were shot and killed in Iceland in the summer of 2008 and no others had been spotted for around 20 years before.

The three reasons stated for the decision to shoot the bear were: human safety, the abundance of polar bears in eastern Greenland (where the bear was almost certainly from) and the huge costs involved in capturing it alive and returning it home.

When the sun returns, Igloolik comes alive

January 28, 2010

Annual ceremony “more important than New Year”

CHRIS WINDEYER

IGLOOLIK — On a quiet, cloudy Sunday morning, elder Tipporah Qaunaq sits inside an igloo, tending two qulliqs and a camp stove.

Tipporah Qaunaq tends a qulliq in an igloo Jan. 16. Qaunaq was there all day serving tea and country food to passers-by. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)
Tipporah Qaunaq tends a qulliq in an igloo Jan. 16. Qaunaq was there all day serving tea and country food to passers-by. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)

Despite the boiling tea and the burning seal oil, the smell of naptha overpowers everything else. The temperature inside is comfortably above zero and the igloos walls have developed a slick, icy crust.

Sunday is the quiet day on the schedule of the Festival of the Return of the Sun.

Qaunaq oversees the igloo as grandson Elmo, 11, and friend James Evaluarjuk, 9, hang out with,  and do a little interpreting for,  a visitor.

The igloo, on the edge of town near Igloolik’s signature inuksuit, serves as a sort of drop-in centre during the festival.

Qaunaq is taking care of the place, fashioning an inner door out of fabric to replace the one made from a garbage bag. The outer door is a wolf pelt.

There’s a language gap between Qaunaq and the visitor, but James, perhaps unfairly recruited, does his best to translate.

When Inuit still lived in igloos, Qaunaq said, they were happy to see the end of the dark season. The festival is a way to keep that tradition alive, she said.

For more than a month, the sun skirts just below the horizon here, offering a few hours of dim light.

High Arctic residents might say that while it’s nothing compared to their endless months of darkness, it’s still a good reason to throw a party.

To Leah Otak, who runs Igloolik’s oral history project, the return of the sun might be more significant than New Year’s.

“When I compare these two, [the return of the sun] is a much more meaningful celebration,” she said.

Gideon Taqaogak, centre, is one of the organizers of the Festival of the Return of the Sun. Here he stops by the igloo to visit friends. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)
Gideon Taqaogak, centre, is one of the organizers of the Festival of the Return of the Sun. Here he stops by the igloo to visit friends. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)

The current version of the festival dates back about 14 years, said Gideon Taqaogak, chair of the Inullariit Committee, which organizes the festival.

It’s now grown to a five-day party, including dog team rides, a fashion show, talent show and a closing performance by Igloolik’s world-renowned circus troupe, Artcirq.

Traditionally, Otak said, Inuit would celebrate when the sun returned, but only if it was clear there’d be enough meat to make it to spring.

A woman tends to a qulliq during opening ceremonies for the Festival of the Return of the Sun in Igloolik Jan. 15. The qulliq is lit, extinguished and lit again to symbolize the return of the sun over the horizon. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH MEDILL)
A woman tends to a qulliq during opening ceremonies for the Festival of the Return of the Sun in Igloolik Jan. 15. The qulliq is lit, extinguished and lit again to symbolize the return of the sun over the horizon. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH MEDILL)

“When they had food and they had blubber to keep their light, that was a sign of success,” she said. “And when the light is coming back they were very happy that they can go hunting in the daylight where you can see far away.”

Today, the festival’s activities also serve as a good way to pass on traditional knowledge to young Iglulingmiut.

“It’s important for us to keep our traditions alive,” he said.

“Even if you don’t try to teach [youth], if they see things like igloo, they learn more, and if they see the dog teams, they learn.”

James Evaluarjuk, 9, crawls out of an igloo in Igloolik Jan. 17. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)
James Evaluarjuk, 9, crawls out of an igloo in Igloolik Jan. 17. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)

For nine-year-old James, who said he’s already come close to shooting a walrus, and who’s sporting a pair of kamiks he made himself, the festival is a great chance to learn from his elders.

But the return of the sun is also good news for James for another reason: he’s looking forward for the chance to “go outside more and be warm.”

Original article here

Scientist uses radio collars to track the arctic wolf in its habitat

January 27, 2010

Learning about the behavior of wild animals often requires hours and hours of personal observation. But what if the animal can’t be followed?

That’s the problem David Mech (pronounced “Meech”) has had for much of his 50-year career studying wolves in the United States. “You can’t just go out and see a wolf,” he said, because they are endangered and afraid of humans. So Mech spent years capturing wolves, putting radio collars on them, then tracking their movements by airplane.

But when Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, began studying arctic wolves 24 years ago, it was a different story. These animals, a subspecies of the gray wolf and not endangered, had never been hunted or trapped by humans because they live so far north. Arctic wolves are so unafraid of people they have even untied Mech’s shoelace and pulled off his glove.

Now, Mech goes to Ellesmere Island in remote northern Canada, 600 miles from the North Pole, every July. At that time of year, the sun never sets, so there is 24 hours of daylight and the temperature is usually in the 40s. It may even get into the 60s for a day or two. When he started going in 1986, “I would just sit there and watch these wolves around the den,” Mech said. Over the years, he saw the pack range in size from a dozen members to as many as 20. He could even follow them hunting, using a small all-terrain vehicle. Mech’s observations provided valuable information about wolf behavior to animal scientists around the world.

But three years ago, the wolf pack moved its den to a location that Mech couldn’t reach. Camped at a remote weather station, he could only wait until the wolves came to him. So last summer Mech, 73, decided to use radio collars again, and he put one on the dominant male of the pack, named Brutus, who has worn the collar ever since.

The result is the first-ever information on the habits of wolves living in the Arctic during the winter — when it is dark 24 hours a day and the temperature is routinely 20 or 30 degrees below zero. Brutus’s collar sends data to a satellite every 12 hours noting his location, and every four days, Mech gets an e-mail from the satellite service showing where Brutus has been. Mech is keeping a blog explaining the pack’s movements, which you can follow at http://www.internationalwolfcenter.blogspot.com. (Also check his photos from 2006 of the beautiful, snow-white animals and their pups).

Last month, Mech was surprised to see that Brutus traveled between points as much as 80 miles apart — even crossing a huge frozen waterway to get to another island — probably for better hunting of muskoxen. Over time, Mech hopes the data will help scientists understand how these animals survive in such a harsh environment, possibly helping endangered species of wolves in the United States.

— Margaret Webb Pressler

Hunter rescued from ice floe in Northwest Passage

January 27, 2010

(Mark Iype and Allison Cross/National Post, 25 January 2010) — A hunter who was stranded on an Arctic ice floe for nearly four days is finally safe after a military rescue team plucked him off the ice yesterday afternoon. A military rescue team had been trying for days to reach David Idlout, trapped since Friday on a floe in the Northwest Passage near one of Canada’s most northern communities. The team had been repeatedly hindered by bad weather. They were finally able to reach Mr. Idlout with a military helicopter at about 3 p.m. local time, said Capt. Pierre Bolduc, from the search-and-rescue co-ordination centre in Trenton, Ont. “He was cold, tired but otherwise in good health,” said Capt. Bolduc, adding that Mr. Idlout didn’t need any medical treatment. Mr. Idlout was flown to the airport in his nearby hometown of Resolute, Nunavut, and his family was there to greet him, Capt. Bolduc said.

Original article here

Fem nasjoner med i spillet om Polhavet

January 26, 2010

Norge — Fem kystnasjoner har hastverk med å gjøre krav på det smeltende Polhavet, og gjør sitt beste for å holde resten av verden utenfor. Denne ukens Arktis-konferanse Arctic Frontiers i Tromsø, der forskere, politikere og en masse oljeindustri møtes for å diskutere Arktis framtid er ikke noe unntak. Tirsdag vil Greenpeace presentere sine krav til en helhetlig Arktis-forvaltning.

I dag er det ingen som eier det som befinner seg under den arktiske isen, og verken de arktiske kyststatene eller FN har klart å etablere felles avtaler eller mekanismer for å beskytte det sårbare havmiljøet i og under Polhavet.

Posisjoneringen i gang

En av de mest dramatiske konsekvensene av klimaendringene er at den arktiske sjøisen minsker voldsomt. Nye havområder byr på nye kommersielle eventyr. Flere av landene rundt Arktis har økt sine militære posisjonering i nordområdene. Oljeselskapene står på terskelen og venter. Paradoksalt nok er det med dagens politikk den industrien som gjort at isen smelter, som kan tjene mest på at nye havområder åpner seg. Også fiskerinæring og gruveselskap står i startgropen for arktiske eventyr.

– Kampen om Polhavet må ikke være en forskningsforkledd hanekamp mellom de fem kystnasjonene. Hele verden må være med på å bestemme hvordan vi best kan beskytte dette et av klodens siste urørte havområder. Vi krever timeout og en global dialog om Arktis framtid, sier Frida Bengtsson, havkampanjeleder for Greenpeace i Norge.

Ber om timeout i Tromsø

Denne ukens Arktis-konferanse Arctic Frontiers i Tromsø samler forskere, politikere og en masse oljeindustri møtes for å diskutere Arktis framtid. Tirsdag vil Greenpeace presentere sine krav til en helhetlig Arktis-forvaltning. Greenpeace Exective Director Mads Christiansen vil holde en direktesendt tale fra konferansen 26.01 fra kl 14.50.

Greenpeace krever et umiddelbart forbud mot all industriell utnytting av de delene av Polhavet som før var beskyttet av isen. Et slikt moratorium vil gi en nødvendig timeout, og må gjelde inntil en global løsning for hvordan Polhavet skal beskyttes er på plass. Avtalene som i dag beskytter Antarktis bør være et godt utgangspunkt.

Greenpeace Calls For Arctic Ocean Drilling Ban

January 26, 2010

Monday, 25 January 2010, 10:26 am
Press Release: Greenpeace International

Greenpeace Calls For Arctic Ocean Drilling Ban As Oil Industry And Governments Meet

Tromsø, Norway, 24 January 2010 – Greenpeace is calling for an immediate moratorium on all activity by extractive industries in the Arctic Ocean, as representatives from oil companies, governments and scientists meet to discuss the future of the region at the Arctic Frontiers Conference, (25-29 January) in Tromsø, Norway.

Greenpeace Nordic Executive Director Mads Flarup Christensen will address the conference plenary on Tuesday 26 January at 14.50-15.20

The moratorium needs to cover the part of the Arctic Ocean that has historically been covered by sea ice and remain in place until a permanent international agreement is established, similar to the agreement that protects the Antarctic.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic Ocean seabed contains over 20% of the world’s fossil fuel resources. With the urgent need to cut carbon emissions drastically and avert catastrophic climate change, these must stay underground.

Scientists from Greenpeace’s summer 2009 Arctic ice expedition will present their preliminary findings on their research on the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, demonstrating the impacts of climate change are taking place faster than predicted

The conference will be attended by Greenpeace campaigners from Norway, Denmark and the United States.

Award-winning photojournalist Nick Cobbing will present his photographs from Greenpeace’s Arctic expedition on Tuesday 26 January at 18.00; Tromsø Art Cooperative (Tromsø Kunstforening).

The speech will be live-streamed at http://www.greenpeace.org/norway/ as well as on http://www.arctic-frontiers.com/

Hornorkesteret wholeheartedly agrees.
Hands off the Arctic!

Oil spills do more damage in the North

January 26, 2010

ImageAn oil spill in the far North will do more damage to the environment than a spill further south. The reason is that the eco-systems in the North are more vulnerable, a new scientific report shows.

The report is made by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) for the Directorate for Nature Management (DN), and is part of the background material to be used when the Government will be discussing the administration plan for the waters around Lofoten and in the Barents Sea.

The Lofoten-Barents waters contain some of the world’s largest fish stocks, rare coral reefs and other marine life, as well as some of the largest collections of sea birds.

The new report confirms much of what has been previous information.

– Today’s knowledge tells us that it would not be advisable to open up for oil drilling off the coast of Lofoten and Vesterålen, says Lars Haltbrekken, leader of Friends of the Earth Norway(Norges Naturvernforbund).

(NRK)
Original article in The Norway Post here

Mårhund fanget i Nord-Trøndelag

January 25, 2010

Ifølge Direktoratet for naturforvaltning (DN) er det første gang det er fanget en levende mårhund i Norge.

Fanget i burfelle

– Derfor er denne fangsten av stor interesse, sier rådgiver Erik Lund i DN til Trønder-Avisa.

Mårhunden ble fanget i en burfelle satt opp av Statens Naturoppsyn i Gutvik i Leka kommune.

– Vi har de siste årene fått inn mange meldinger om observasjoner av mårhund, men har ikke klart å få bekreftet noen av dem, sier Tore Solstad, regionansvarlig i Statens Naturoppsyn for rovvilt i Nord-Trøndelag.

Svartelistet i Norge

Mårhund, også kalt vaskebjørnhund, er et rovdyr i hundefamilien omtrent så stor som en rødrev. Den er uønsket i Norge fordi den ikke hører til i norsk fauna. Opprinnelig kommer den fra Øst-Asia, men har spredd seg til Russland og store deler av Europa.

Det er tillatt å jakte på mårhund året rundt ettersom den er en uønsket art.
Mårhunden som er fanget i Gutvik, vil imidlertid få leve videre.

– Den vil bli sterilisert, påsatt radiosender og sluppet fri. Mårhunder opptrer ofte parvis, og vi vil undersøke om det finnes flere i det samme området, sier Solstad.

Mårhund-fakta

  • Mårhund er et hundedyr på størrelse med en rev.
  • Den er et rovdyr og en alteter, og lever blant annet av egg, fugleunger, smågnagere, innsekter, frosk og padder.
  • I områder der arten etablerer seg, kan den gjøre store innhogg i bestandene av bakkehekkende fugler og amfibier. Dette kan bli en stor utfordring i mange våtmarksområder og sjøfuglkolonier.
  • Mårhund kan også spre sykdom, og er for eksempel en av hovedvektorene for rabies i Europa.
  • Mårhund kan også være bærer av en bendelmark (Echinococcus multilocularis) som er farlig for mennesker.
  • Mårhund er opprinnelig en asiatisk art som ble satt ut i naturen i det tidligere Sovjetunionen i perioden fra 1929 til 1955. I årene etter utsettingen har arten spredt seg til en rekke land i Europa.

Original article here