Posts Tagged ‘arctic ocean’

U.S. Navy Scrambles for Piece of Arctic Pie (Pentland/Forbes)

March 26, 2011

William Pentland/Forbes Mar. 25 2011 – Original article here

The U.S. Navy is staging the aquatic-equivalent of a dog-and-pony show in the Arctic Ocean this month with a small fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The military exercises are designed to bolster U.S. claims on emerging – and likely lucrative – commercial opportunities in the region, which have attracted intense interest in recent years as global warming accelerates what appears to be the permanent loss of sea ice in the Arctic.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported in early March that 2011 has tied with 2006 for the record low sea-ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean (in the satellite record). By the mid-2030s, scientists have predicted that the Arctic will be ice-free for at least one month of every summer, which will expand to two-to-three ice-free months by around mid-century.

The U.S. Navy has deployed two nuclear-powered submarines off the coast of Alaska close to a temporary camp constructed on the ice roughly 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay. The submarines are conducting military training exercises.

Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

On March 7, 2011, the winter ice covering the Arctic reached its maximum size for the year at 5.65 million square miles, which is more than 20% below – or, 463,000 square miles – below the average annual coverage from 1979 to 2000 (6.12 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole.

The exercises train U.S. submarine crews to deal with craggy ice keels that extend 20 to 50 feet into the water, and varying salinity levels that complicate communications and navigation under the ice cap.

Submarine crews practice surfacing the 8,000-ton submarines, directly through thick ice or in nearby open waters, and learn to avoid hitting another ship. The ice exercise, which did not include any torpedo testing, cost an estimated $3.5 million, according to Larry Estrada, director of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory which manages the camps with the Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington

Credit: National Snow and Ice Data CenterThe graph above shows daily Arctic sea ice extent as of March 22, 2011, along with daily ice extents for 2006, which had the previous lowest maximum extent, and 2007, the year with the lowest minimum extent in September. Light blue indicates 2011, green shows 2007, light green shows 2006, and dark gray shows the 1979 to 2000 average. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

A delegation of defense contractors and military brass visited the camp last week, according to Reuters. The training was meant to ensure that the United States maintained access to the Arctic, home to the world’s largest undiscovered oil and gas reserves. Russia, the United States, Denmark, Greenland, Canada and Norway, which border the Arctic, and China are also scrambling to control the region and access to the commercial ventures there.

“It is a key potential transit line between the Atlantic and the Pacific,” U.S. Navy Captain Rhett Jaehn, told Reuters. “We want to be able to demonstrate that we have global reach. That we can operate in all oceans, and that we can operate proficiently in any environment.”

Jaehn is the commanding officer for the more than two dozen Navy officials, researchers, engineers and scientists working at the temporary ice camp. Ironically, finding a thick enough ice sheet to support the temporary camp was among the difficulties the Navy encountered this year.

Receding ice levels are likely to open new shipping routes in the Arctic, which could ultimately make the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska a compelling alternative to shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

US submarines surface in tug of war over Arctic riches (Reuters)

March 26, 2011

Ice camp called way to show US ‘use and presence’ as other nations make claims

By Andrea Shalal-Esa/Reuters 3/25/2011 – Original article here

APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY ICE STATION, Arctic Ocean — The United States is staging high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean as evidence mounts that global warming will lead to more mining, oil production, shipping and fishing in the world’s last frontier.

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and a Who’s Who of other VIPs braved below-zero temperatures this month to visit a temporary camp on the ice about 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where two nuclear-powered U.S. submarines are conducting military training exercises.

“It is important for us to continue to train and operate in the Arctic,” said U.S. Navy Captain Rhett Jaehn, the No. 2 official overseeing U.S. submarine forces.

He said U.S. submarines are a powerful symbol of U.S. military power, and the training was meant to ensure that the United States maintained access to the Arctic, home to the world’s largest undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

“It is a key potential transit line between the Atlantic and the Pacific. We want to be able to demonstrate that we have global reach. That we can operate in all oceans, and that we can operate proficiently in any environment,” Jaehn said.

Russia, the United States, Denmark, Greenland, Canada and Norway, which border the Arctic, and China are already jockeying for position to benefit from new business opportunities there.

Navy scientists predict the Arctic will have one ice-free summer month in about the mid-2030s, and two to three ice-free months by around mid-century. Less ice means the 56-mile wide Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska could one day compete with the Persian Gulf and other shipping lanes because it is as much as 40 percent shorter than conventional routes.

Changing ice conditions in the Arctic are expected to lead to greater commercial traffic, increasing the need for submarine and Coast Guard patrols.

The Navy’s chief oceanographer, Rear Adm. David Titley, who visited the camp last week, said just finding a thick enough multi-year ice sheet to put the camp was difficult this year.

Jaehn is the officer in charge of the temporary ice camp, where more than two dozen Navy officials, researchers, engineers and scientists, and some military officials from Britain and Canada, are facilitating the biannual exercises.

Russia to ratify maritime border pact with Norway within month – Lavrov

March 23, 2011

07/03/2011 RIA Novosti original article here

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will ratify a maritime border demarcation treaty with Norway within a month, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

Last year Russia and Norway signed a deal to delimitate their maritime border in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean after 40 years of negotiations.

Both countries have been disputing the 175,000 square km area since 1970. The absence of defined maritime border often resulted in detentions of fishing vessels in the region.

The agreement has also paved the way for the lifting of a 30-year-long moratorium on oil and gas extraction in the previously disputed zone.

“We were discussing the vital issue for our states [maritime border demarcation pact]…Norway has ratified the pact. Russia has just started the ratification. We are planning to settle it within a month,” Lavrov told a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia, however, is still in a dispute with Canada over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, with both countries trying to persuade a UN commission that it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The sides have agreed that scientific evidence should resolve the dispute.

KALININGRAD, March 7 (RIA Novosti)

Russia to Resolute: explorers plan to drive over top of the world to North Pole

February 20, 2011

Original article here

A group of Canadian and Russian explorers will set out to make history this week by driving from Russia to Canada over the North Pole.

Yes, driving.

“It’s the first time … someone will be crossing the Arctic Ocean with a wheel-based vehicle,” said Mikhail Glan, a Russian emigre living in Vancouver. “It’s a very interesting project.”

The eight-member Polar Ring team, which includes two Canadians, is to leave Thursday from an island in the Russian Arctic and roll straight north until it hits the pole. The team will then gas up and take on supplies at an ice camp used by tourists before heading south to Resolute, Nunavut.

“We plan to drive from Russia to the North Pole … Then we’ll drive all the way to Resolute Bay,” Glan said from Moscow. “It’s pretty simple.”

Simple, that is, until you consider that the trip is expected to take about four months and cover 7,000 kilometres in one of the most forbidding parts of the planet — nearly half of it sea ice.

At the North Pole, the sun won’t even rise until March 19. The average temperature is -34 C.

And while southern lakes may freeze into easily crossed white tabletops, the Arctic Ocean does anything but. The thick ice shifts and moves with winds and currents, throwing up huge ridges when pans bump together and leaving wide stretches of frigid, open water when they don’t.

This year is likely to be even tougher than most. There’s less ocean covered by ice now than there has been in any winter since satellite records began.

“There could be lots of open water,” said Glan. “We’re not sure that it will freeze. Most probably not, so we need to drive around.”

But that’s OK. The ice buggies can float.

“We can cross pretty big pieces of open water, but it definitely will slow us down. We hope that the weather will be more or less friendly.”

The buggies are an entirely new design, Glan said.

Other drive-the-sea-ice expeditions have used vehicles that are heavy and tank-like. A 2009 group drove modified U.S. military Humvees between the Nunavut communities of Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay. Polar Ring’s vehicles, powered by nine-litre diesel engines, are relatively light, and look like beefed-up, closed-in dune buggies with gigantic balloon tires.

Proving the worth of those vehicles is one of the reasons for the trip. Glan said a successful drive would demonstrate that wheeled transportation could be an efficient way to get around in the High Arctic — useful to everyone from scientists to resource companies to search-and-rescue teams.

The Polar Ring members, who will post their progress on the web, will also take myriad scientific measurements and track polar bears.

But Glan said one of the main reasons for the trip is to get people excited about the Arctic and Arctic exploration. The Russia-to-Resolute drive is one leg in a multi-year project to retrace the steps of early explorers and to link circumpolar nations with a thin strand of tire tracks on the ice.

“It will help to promote activities in the Arctic and maintain interest in that,” Glan said. “It helps attract attention to the history of Arctic exploration.

“Our goal is to promote it to attract attention, to make it interesting for people. This is a good eye-catcher.”

Those aren’t the only reasons to go, of course.

“Some people ask, ‘Why do you want to do that?’ Other people, they don’t have to ask,” said Glan.

“It’s exploration. It’s adventure. It’s a great thing.”

The team, funded by a variety of Russian corporations and foundations, hopes to arrive in Resolute by late May or early June.It plans to complete the circle in 2014 by driving from Resolute along the Alaskan coast back to Russia.

Glan said Polar Ring has filled in all the necessary paperwork to cross the border into Canada.

Content Provided By Canadian Press.