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Posts Tagged ‘Beaufort Sea’

‘Ice Wars’ heating up the Arctic

July 17, 2011 Comments off

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Scrambling for a piece of the Arctic pie

Editor’s note: CNN correspondent Kaj Larsen recently visited the Arctic to observe the U.S. naval exercise known as ICEX. His experience is part of the CNN documentary “Ice Wars,” which will air at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on CNN Presents.

(CNN) — On a small, floating piece of ice in the Beaufort Sea, several hundred miles north of Alaska, a group of scientists are documenting what some dub an “Arctic meltdown.”

According to climate scientists, the warming of the region is shrinking the polar ice cap at an alarming rate, reducing the permafrost layer and wreaking havoc on polar bears, arctic foxes and other indigenous wildlife in the region.

What is bad for the animals, though, has been good for commerce.

The recession of the sea ice and the reduction in permafrost — combined with advances in technology — have allowed access to oil, mineral and natural gas deposits that were previously trapped in the ice.

The abundance of these valuable resources and the opportunity to exploit them has created a Read more…

Collapsing Coastlines

July 4, 2011 Comments off

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Storms can ravage coastal permafrost, as shown near the village of Kaktovik, Alaska.© Accent Alaska.com/Alamy

Gray waves surged over miles and miles of open water, breaking against the bluffs underlying Kaktovik. The tiny village sits precariously on the Beaufort Sea, a frigid body of water bordering Alaska’s northeastern Arctic coast. As the choppy waters inundated vulnerable stretches of shoreline, the surf carved deep chasms into the tall bluffs.

Torre Jorgenson, a geomorphologist working near Kaktovik, watched the storm boil up, shaking homes and boats for nearly two days in July 2008. Dramatic erosion followed soon after. Blocks of graphite-colored earth, as much as 10 meters wide and several meters deep, toppled into the sea one by one like skyscrapers in a Japanese monster film.

“The locals had never seen that type of erosion,” says Jorgenson, also president of the U.S. Permafrost Association. “It was something new, a regime change.”

The erosion Jorgenson witnessed was a potent warning to Kaktovik’s residents of the instability of their coastal home. Seaside bluffs and beaches across the Arctic are Read more…

Polar bear’s long swim illustrates ice melt

February 3, 2011 Comments off

Searching for food, one female bear was tracked as she swam for 9 days across the Beaufort Sea before reaching an ice floe. Litigation continues over protection of bear habitat.

In one of the most dramatic signs ever documented of how shrinking Arctic sea ice impacts polar bears, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska have tracked a female bear that swam nine days across the deep, frigid Beaufort Sea before reaching an ice floe 426 miles offshore.

The marathon swim came at a cost: With little food likely available once she arrived, the bear lost 22% of her body weight and her year-old female cub, who set off on the journey but did not survive, the researchers said.

“Our activity data suggests that she swam constantly for nine days, without any rest. Which is pretty incredible,” said George M. Durner, a USGS zoologist and a lead author of the study, published last month in the journal Polar Biology.

“We have observed other long-distance swimming events. I don’t believe any of them have been Read more…