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Scientists in the Arctic, monitoring weather

What’s happening to our weather? The answers are hiding in Arctic air, Guardian,  Helen Czerski, 1 Sept 18, Dozens of scientists, Helen Czerski among them, are at work in the Arctic, seeking answers to questions that profoundly affect the future of everyone on the planet …….. For two months, the Swedish icebreaker Oden is home to 74 of us, living and working at the top of the world to tap into the stories that the blue and the white have to tell.

…….on this trip, the desire to go one step further is merged with self-preservation. The Arctic may be a long way from most of us, but what happens here matters to all of us. The weather up here is intimately connected to the patterns of weather further south, particularly the jet stream that feeds endless British conversations about the weather. As the sea ice melts, shipping routes are opening up across the Arctic, bringing questions about regulation and control over this previously inaccessible region. And this is an important area for many species, providing summer feeding grounds for visitors from the south. The Arctic may be a long way away, but it is woven into all our lives.
This scientific expedition was funded by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the American National Science Foundation to answer a specific question: how does the ocean affect the weather in the high Arctic? It’s thought that material produced by life beneath the ice reaches and influences the clouds, but how does that happen and when?

Answers to those questions are essential to improve the weather forecasts for this region, and to allow us to predict the effects of the substantial changes in temperature and sea ice that have been observed.

Sea ice doesn’t just matter for its own sake. It has a strong influence on both the ocean and atmosphere, and the consequences tweak our planet’s energy budget. The solar energy that flows into the Earth system is mostly absorbed in the tropics, transported northwards by the atmosphere and ocean, and eventually re-emitted into space as infra-red radiation.

The Arctic balance sheet controls the final part of that process, and the keys to the energy flow through this vast icy wilderness are held by the clouds. Oden is a tiny speck in the white, drifting with the sea ice only a few miles from the north pole, perfectly positioned between the clouds and the ocean to watch and sample and learn………

Understanding this environment is slow work, but the need is urgent. This region is already changing very rapidly, and we cannot understand the importance of a change if we don’t understand the starting point. Expeditions like this are difficult and expensive to run, but the data they produce is essential. In the next couple of weeks, there will be plenty of news stories about the annual sea ice minimum, but less discussion about the specifics of why it might matter. If the ice changes, many other things will also change, and we need to predict the consequences. ……..


September 3, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Arctic sea ice under threat from warm water that has arrived deep below it

Archived’ heat has reached deep into the Arctic interior, researchers say  August 29, 2018

Yale University
Arctic sea ice isn’t just threatened by the melting of ice around its edges, a new study has found: Warmer water that originated hundreds of miles away has penetrated deep into the interior of the Arctic.

Arctic sea ice isn’t just threatened by the melting of ice around its edges, a new study has found: Warmer water that originated hundreds of miles away has penetrated deep into the interior of the Arctic.

That “archived” heat, currently trapped below the surface, has the potential to melt the region’s entire sea-ice pack if it reaches the surface, researchers say.

The study appears online Aug. 29 in the journal Science Advances.

“We document a striking ocean warming in one of the main basins of the interior Arctic Ocean, the Canadian Basin,” said lead author Mary-Louise Timmermans, a professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University.

The upper ocean in the Canadian Basin has seen a two-fold increase in heat content over the past 30 years, the researchers said. They traced the source to waters hundreds of miles to the south, where reduced sea ice has left the surface ocean more exposed to summer solar warming. In turn, Arctic winds are driving the warmer water north, but below the surface waters.

“This means the effects of sea-ice loss are not limited to the ice-free regions themselves, but also lead to increased heat accumulation in the interior of the Arctic Ocean that can have climate effects well beyond the summer season,” Timmermans said. “Presently this heat is trapped below the surface layer. Should it be mixed up to the surface, there is enough heat to entirely melt the sea-ice pack that covers this region for most of the year.”

The co-authors of the study are John Toole and Richard Krishfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs provided support for the research.

August 31, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Asteroid explosion near a US early warning radar base – could have triggered a nuclear war

An asteroid exploded near a US early warning radar base and we’re lucky it didn’t spark nuclear Armageddon Jasper Hamil  3 Aug 2018

An asteroid has exploded in a ‘fireball’ near an American early warning radar base, prompting a top scientist to reflect on how a similar ‘freak’ incident could cause nuclear war. The meteor was only detected after it detonated close to Thule Airbase, Greenland, on July 25. A prominent nuclear expert later discussed how the US military could have mistaken the explosion for a Russian ‘first strike’ and launched up to 2,000 nukes in retaliation.

Thule is a base in Greenland which incorporates a Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site designed to spot nuclear doomsday weapons flying towards America. Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted: ‘We’re still here, so they correctly concluded it was not a Russian first strike. ‘There are nearly 2,000 nukes on alert, ready to launch.’ Kristensen told Metro that a ‘freak incident like this could potentially trigger an alert that caused the United States to overreact’, although he stressed such an event was unlikely.

‘The potential risks are about what could happen in a tense crisis where two nuclear powers were at each other’s throats and a conventional shooting war had broken out and part of the command and control system degraded,’ he said. ‘The early warning systems are supposed to be able to differentiate and in most cases probably would be able to do so. ‘But with large number of nuclear weapons on high alert, the concern would be that an overreaction could trigger a series of events that escalated the conflict significantly. ‘There have been cases during the Cold War where atmospheric events caused early warning systems to falsely report nuclear attacks. Fortunately, military officers figured out that they were false alarms.’ He said tensions were low at the moment, making it very unlikely that an asteroid strike would trigger a nuclear war.

‘I don’t think there is any risk that such an event could trigger a nuclear launch under normal circumstances,’ Kristensen continued. ‘There are no other indicators that nuclear adversaries at this point are about to launch nuclear weapons against the United States.’ The asteroid hit on July 25 and exploded with a force of about 2.1 kilotons, Nasa confirmed. This is about an eighth of the 15 kiloton yield of the Little Boy bomb, which was used to destroy Hiroshima in World War II. In 1968, a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed into sea ice near Thule, causing a huge explosion and forcing a massive clean-up operation.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, incidents, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Brutal heat wave brings wildfires across Arctic circle countries

Wildfires have ignited inside the Arctic Circle  In Sweden and Latvia, and further south in Greece, wildfires are spreading amid a brutal heat wave. By 

July 25, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Arctic circle countries ravaged by wildfires – Sweden worst affected

Wildfires rage in Arctic Circle as Sweden calls for help, By Jonathan Watts, July 18, 2018

At least 11 wildfires are raging inside the Arctic Circle as the hot, dry summer turns an abnormally wide area of Europe into a tinderbox.

The worst affected country, Sweden, has called for emergency assistance from its partners in the European Union to help fight the blazes, which have broken out across a wide range of its territory and prompted the evacuations of four communities.

Tens of thousands of people have been warned to remain inside and close windows and vents to avoid smoke inhalation. Rail services have been disrupted.

The Copernicus Earth observation programme, which gives daily updates of fires in Europe, shows more than 60 fires burning across Sweden, with sites also ablaze in Norway, Finland and Russia, including in the Arctic Circle.

Norway has sent six fire-fighting helicopters in response to its neighbour’s request for assistance. Italy is sending two Canadair CL-415s – which can dump 6,000 litres of water on each run – to Örebro in central southern Sweden.

In western Sweden, fire-fighting operations were temporarily halted near an artillery training range near Älvdalen forest due to concernsthat unexploded ordnance might be detonated by the extreme heat.

Residents in Uppsala said they could see the plumes of smoke and have been banned from barbecuing in national parks, after 18 consecutive days without rain.

“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” said Mike Peacock, a university researcher and local resident.

There have been huge fires in the past in Sweden, but not over such a wide area. This appears to be a trend as more and bigger blazes are reported in other far northern regions like Greenland, Alaska, Siberia and Canada.

The sparks come from a variety of sources: BBQs, cigarettes and increasingly lightning, which is becoming more frequent as the planet warms.

Swedish authorities say the risk of more fires in the days ahead is “extremely high” due to temperatures forecast in excess of 30C. Much of the northern hemisphere has sweltered in unusually hot weather in recent weeks, breaking records from Algeria to California and causing fires from Siberia to Yorkshire. Ukraine has been hit especially hard by wildfires.

The European Forest Fire Information System warned fire danger conditions were likely to be extreme across much of central and northern Europe in the coming weeks.

EU officials said many of this year’s fires are outside the traditional European fire zone of the Mediterranean, and are increasingly taking place at unexpected times of year. 2017 was the worst fire year in Europe’s history, causing destruction to thousands of hectares of forest and cropland in Portugal, Spain and Italy, as late as November. “There are clear trends of longer fire seasons and frequent critical periods in Europe that are leading to dangerous fire situations,” said a European commission official.

Climate scientists said the Arctic and other areas that were once relatively fire-free are likely to become more vulnerable.

“What we’re seeing with this global heatwave is that these areas of fire susceptibility are now broadening, with the moors in north-west England and now these Swedish fires a consequence of that,” said Vincent Gauci, professor of global change ecology at the Open University.

“Both these areas are typically mild and wet which allows forests and peatlands to develop quite large carbon stores,” he added. “When such carbon-dense ecosystems experience aridity and heat and there is a source of ignition – lightning or people – fires will happen.”

July 20, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, Sweden | Leave a comment

Arctic climate change: The northern Barents Sea has warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius in just 18 years

Huge part of Arctic ocean is shifting to an Atlantic climate, study finds
The northern Barents Sea has warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius in just 18 years,
Independent, Chris Mooney 28 June 1

June 29, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

In a drill, fake terrorists take over Russia’s Arctic radioactive waste storage site

In a drill, fake terrorists take over Arctic radioactive waste storage site

Russian officials have said they thwarted a terrorist attack at a facility storing old radioactive components from nuclear vessels located in the Arctic — but don’t worry. It was just a drill. Bellona,    by Anna Kireeva

Russian officials have said they thwarted a terrorist attack at a facility storing old radioactive components from nuclear vessels located in the Arctic — but don’t worry. It was just a drill.

The simulated siege was part of a large-scale exercise called Atom-2018, and was meant to prepare workers at the Sayda Bay for the worst – an armed incursion into a sensitive facility within Russia’s vast but fragile nuclear waste storage industry, complete with bombs, hostages and political demands.

According to reports, staff at the facility were alerted to the fact that the exercise was a drill. The purpose of the fake crisis, rather than scaring workers at a radioactive materials storage site, was to prepare officials from Russia’s security services to map out countermeasures specifically designed for the Sayda Bay site.

Sayda Bay is a part of the Murmansk branch of RosRAO, the state operator responsible for the management and storage and handling of non-nuclear radioactive waste, as well as decommissioning nuclear vessels, especially submarines.

Located 60 kilometers from Murmansk, Sayda Bay is itself an old Soviet-era military base. Since 2004, it has been tasked with storing reactor compartments from the dismantled submarines of Russia’s once overwhelming Northern Fleet of nuclear submarines.

Later, facilities were built at Sayda Bay to handle and condition radioactive waste. Currently it houses about 80 single unit reactor blocks and has space for 40 more. Eventually, the site will hold the irradiated remains of the Lepse, a nuclear icebreaker refueling vessels that is carefully being pulled apart at the Nerpa Shipyard near Murmansk.

It was the radioactive waste storage facility at Sayda Bay that was targeted by the would be terrorists. According to a release on the exercise, the assailants seized the facility, took hostages from among its workers, and put forth a demand for regime change. Unless their demands were met, said the insurgents, they would detonate a bomb…….

June 1, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Greenpeace demands strict safety controls on floating nuclear reactor in the Arctic

Floating nuclear power plant reaches the Arctic, Greenpeace demands strict safety controls   by Greenpeace International    Vienna, Austria – As Russia’s state-run corporation Rosatom prepares to celebrate the arrival of its first purpose-built floating nuclear power plant in the Arctic city of Murmansk, campaigners are warning of threats to people and nature and calling for a full environmental impact assessment and independent nuclear oversight.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, safety, technology | Leave a comment

A maritime catastrophe waiting to happen – Russia’s Floating Nuclear Power Plant in the Arctic

Reasons Why a Floating Nuclear Power Plant in the Arctic is a Terrible Idea, BY SVILEN PETROV,  -11 May 18,  This enormous monstrosity is the first floating nuclear power plant built in the world. And now it’s heading to the Arctic. No, it’s not a joke or science fiction, it’s really happening.


Rosatom, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear giant, has just launched the Akademik Lomonosov, the first of a fleet of floating nuclear power plants that Russia plans to build and sell to other countries such as China, Indonesia and Sudan. It is currently being towed across the Baltic Sea, where it will travel all of Scandinavia to Murmansk, to be supplied and tested, before departing on a 5,000 kilometre trip through the Arctic.

We already know the risks of drilling for oil in such a fragile and wild environment as the Arctic, but a nuclear reactor floating in its waters could aggravate things much more. This is why:

  1. It is a matter of time that a catastrophe occurs

Rosatom has said that the plant “is designed with a large margin of safety that exceeds all possible threats and makes nuclear reactors indestructible in the face of tsunamis and other natural disasters.” Remember what happened the last time they said a boat was “unsinkable”?

Nothing is indestructible. The problem is that this nuclear Titanic has been built without independent experts to verify it. The same lack of supervision that there was in Chernobyl.

The flat bottom hull of this plant makes it especially vulnerable to tsunamis and cyclones. A large wave could launch the station to the coast. Also, he can not move alone either. If you release moorings, you can not move away from a threat (such as an iceberg or a strange vessel, for example) increasing the risk of a fatal incident. A collision shock would damage your vital functions, causing a loss of power and damaging your cooling function.

  1. Imagine how difficult it would be to deal with the consequences

There are so many things that could go wrong here: it could flood, sink or run aground. All of these scenarios could lead to the release of radioactive substances into the environment.

In case of a collapse, the ocean water would cool the core. It may seem like a good idea, but when the fuel rods are melted with seawater, there would first be a water explosion and possible explosions of hydrogen that would propagate a large number of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere.

Damage to the reactor could contaminate much of the marine wildlife that is nearby, which means that fish populations could be contaminated in the coming years. The radioactive Arctic is not the most beautiful scenario. The areas around Fukushima and Chernobyl are already difficult to clean, imagine in the polar night, with sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms.

  1. The terrible trajectory of nuclear ships, icebreakers and Russian submarines

In Russia, there is a very long list of accidents with nuclear submarines and icebreakers.

The first nuclear icebreaker, Lenin, suffered a cooling accident in 1965, which caused a partial melting of the nucleus, which ended up pouring into the Tsivolki Bay near the Novaya Zemyla archipelago in 1967. In 1970, the reactor of a nuclear submarine ( K-320) was launched at the Krasnoye Sormovo pier in Russia, releasing large amounts of radiation and exposing hundreds of people. An accident during the fuel loading of a nuclear submarine reactor in Chazma in 1985 irradiated 290 workers, causing 10 deaths and 49 injured people. And the list goes on …

Rosatom’s plans to build a fleet of floating nuclear power plants pose an increased risk of unprecedented nuclear accidents in the Arctic.

  1. A nuclear dump in the water

We already have enough radioactive waste without knowing what to do with them. We do not need more.

The reactors of this plant are smaller than those found in a nuclear power plant on land and will need to be refuelled every two or three years. The radioactive waste will be stored on board until it returns after the designated 12 years of operation. That means radioactive waste will be left floating in the Arctic for years.

This is not only incredibly dangerous, but there is still no safe place to transport the fuel used once you step on firm ground. No source of energy must generate waste that takes thousands of years to be safe.

  1. Is using nuclear energy to facilitate the extraction of more fossil fuels

If this floating nightmare were not already absurd enough, the reason they are towing it to the Arctic is to help Russia extract more fossil fuels. Its main mission is to provide electricity to the northern oil, gas, coal and mineral extraction industries.

And it is not necessary to repeat the reasons why more fossil fuels are synonymous with more climate change. We only have to protect the Arctic from this potential catastrophe.

Responsible for the anti-nuclear campaign of Greenpeace Spain, Source: El Independiente

May 12, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Global climate change underway – the message from melting Arctic sea ice

Melting Arctic sends a message: Climate change is here in a big way, The Conversation,  Mark Serreze, Research Professor of Geography and director, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, 

Scientists have known for a long time that as climate change started to heat up the Earth, its effects would be most pronounced in the Arctic. This has many reasons, but climate feedbacks are key. As the Arctic warms, snow and ice melt, and the surface absorbs more of the sun’s energy instead of reflecting it back into space. This makes it even warmer, which causes more melting, and so on.

This expectation has become a reality that I describe in my new book “Brave New Arctic.” It’s a visually compelling story: The effects of warming are evident in shrinking ice caps and glaciers and in Alaskan roads buckling as permafrost beneath them thaws.

But for many people the Arctic seems like a faraway place, and stories of what is happening there seem irrelevant to their lives. It can also be hard to accept that the globe is warming up while you are shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.

Since I have spent more than 35 years studying snow, ice and cold places, people often are surprised when I tell them I once was skeptical that human activities were playing a role in climate change. My book traces my own career as a climate scientist and the evolving views of many scientists I have worked with.  When I first started working in the Arctic, scientists understood it as a region defined by its snow and ice, with a varying but generally constant climate. In the 1990s, we realized that it was changing, but it took us years to figure out why. Now scientists are trying to understand what the Arctic’s ongoing transformation means for the rest of the planet, and whether the Arctic of old will ever be seen again.

Evidence piles up

Evidence that the Arctic is warming rapidly extends far beyond shrinking ice caps and buckling roads. It also includes a melting Greenland ice sheet; a rapid decline in the extent of the Arctic’s floating sea ice cover in summer; warming and thawing of permafrost; shrubs taking over areas of tundra that formerly were dominated by sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens; and a rise in temperature twice as large as that for the globe as a whole. This outsized warming even has a name: Arctic amplification.

……….  Indeed, the question is no longer whether the Arctic is warming, but how drastically it will change – and what those changes mean for the planet.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Loss of ice in Russian Arctic has doubled over past 10 years

Russian Arctic glacier loss doubles as temps warm UNIVERSITY , 25 Apr 18, ITHACA, N.Y. – Ice mass loss in the Russian Arctic has nearly doubled over the last decade according to Cornell University research published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

The research focused on Franz Josef Land, a glaciated Russian archipelago in the Kara and Barents seas – among the northernmost and most remote parcels of land on Earth.

“Glaciers there are shrinking by area and by height. We are seeing an increase in the recent speed of ice loss, when compared to the long-term ice-loss rate,” said lead researcher Whyjay Zheng, a Cornell University doctoral student in geophysics. “We are finding out that the ice is changing more rapidly than we previously thought,” said Zheng. “The temperature is changing in the Arctic faster than anywhere else in the world.”

From 1953 to 2010, the average rate of ice surface loss was 18 centimeters per year. From 2011 to 2015, the ice surface decrease was 32 centimeters per year, which is a water loss of 4.43 gigatons annually, said Zheng. For perspective, that much water would raise the level of Cayuga Lake — the longest of New York state’s Finger Lakes, at 38 miles — by 85 feet and inundate the cities of Ithaca and Seneca Falls.

he Arctic has been warming in recent decades, but glaciers across the region are responding in different ways. “Previous studies have shown that the glaciers in northern Canada seem to be shrinking at a faster rate than the ones in some parts of northern Russia,” said senior author Matt Pritchard, Cornell professor of geophysics.

“Our work takes a closer look at the Russian glaciers to understand why they might be responding to a warming Arctic differently than glaciers in other parts of the Arctic. Why glaciers in Franz Josef Land have been shrinking more rapidly between 2011 and 2015 than in previous decades is possibly related to ocean temperature changes,” said Pritchard.


Support for Zheng’s research was provided by an Overseas Ph.D. Scholarship funded by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan.

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Drastic action on fossil fuels is needed, as the Poles melt – with unpredictable consequences

The Guardian view on Antarctica: the worrying retreat of the ice  Editorial
The only thing more frightening than an advancing glacier may be one that is shrinking and raising sea levels round the world

Both the north pole and the south pole are situated in the middle of huge ice deserts which are melting around the edges under the influence of human activity. The difference that matters between them is that the ice of the Arctic floats: if it melted nothing much would happen to aggregate sea levels. The ice of Antarctica, like that of Greenland, rests on land. If it all were to melt, as it has done in the far distant past, sea levels could rise by as much as 60 metres. That is most unlikely to happen. What is possible, though, is that the smaller portion of the continent, west Antarctica, which is divided from the rest by a mountain range, could lose much of its ice. Even that would be catastrophic. A significant retreat in west Antarctica, as seems to be already under way, could raise sea levels by between one and three metres by the end of this century. Children now alive will see that happen across their lifetimes. That is what is meant by the urgency of global warming.

Previous surveys have concentrated on a few of the glaciers that are an obvious danger but the research released this week analysed satellite data covering the whole of the coastline of west Antarctica to reach its worrying conclusions. The problem is worsened by the shape of the seabed on which the glaciers now rest. It does not slope towards the deep ocean, but inwards, forming a bowl of which the far side is the mountain range that divides the continent. That means that the process of erosion will be working downhill as it moves inwards, with faster and less predictable results.

The present danger was discovered by measuring the thickness of the ice sheet from space and deducing from this the shape of the glacier beneath. This is much easier than knowing what to do. The contrast between the exquisite technological sophistication employed in the diagnosis of the problem and the lack of international coordination or political sophistication when it comes to solving it, illustrates the crisis of technological civilisation. As a species we have shown enough cleverness to disrupt the world’s climate, but may not have enough to remedy the damage that we’ve done. Things are of course made very much worse by the presence in the White House of an aggressively ignorant and anti-scienceadministration.

Predicting the future of these changes isn’t an exact science, which is one of the things which makes them so frightening, but neither is it entirely guesswork. Ignorance about the size of the threatened rise in sea levels is no excuse for inaction. We know it’s coming. We know it will be disruptive. We don’t know if it will be catastrophic. But the possibility must spur us into drastic action on fossil fuels. Keep them in the ground.

April 6, 2018 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Concern over Russia’s nuclear activities in the Arctic – potential for a radiological disaster

With Russia building floating nuclear reactors and possibly testing nuclear-powered cruise missiles, there are good reasons for this training.The Drive, BY JOSEPH TREVITHICKMARCH 20, 2018   The U.S. military, along with other federal and state authorities, has been training to respond to potentially dangerous releases of radioactive material in and around the Arctic. Though there is no clear indication of a direct link between Russia’s reported tests of nuclear-powered missiles or expanding use of nuclear power in the region, it is hard not to see these exercises in connection with those developments.

Earlier in March 2018, members of the U.S. National Guards from 10 different states arrived at the Donnelly Training Area, situated near the U.S. Army’s Fort Greely in Alaska. Alaska state authorities and members of Canada’s reserve 39 Canadian Brigade Group joined the exercise, nicknamed Arctic Eagle 2018, as well.

The drills included a number of different mock crises, including an overturned fuel truck creating a hazardous material spill, the potential for attacks on the Trans Alaskan Pipeline System, and even cyber attacks. But especially notable was a scenario involving the need to locate a crashed satellite and contain the radiological material it had deposited across a wide area as it plummeted to earth. ………

t’s definitely no secret that the U.S. military has become increasing interested in preparing for potential conflicts and other contingencies above and near the Arctic Circle in recent years. As global climate change has shrunk the polar ice cap and otherwise reduced the amount of ice buildup that occurs during certain parts of the year, the region has become increasingly important economically and various countries, especially Russia, have moved to enforce their territorial claims.

“The growing concerns regarding the increased number of nations competing for Arctic resources are well justified,” U.S. Air Force General Lori Robinson, head of U.S. Northern Command, which oversees operations in the region, and the designated “Advocate for Arctic Capabilities” within the Pentagon, reiterated to members of Congress during a hearing in February 2018. “Diminishing sea ice provides opportunities for significantly expanded access to a region that had previously been inaccessible to all but a handful of northern nations.”

…….. the idea of a crashing satellite creating a radiological disaster isn’t an entirely fictional scenario. In 1978, the Soviet Union’s Kosmos 954 reconnaissance satellite, which had a nuclear reactor as its power source, crashed into Canadian territory, touching off an international incident and prompting an expensive response and clean-up operation.

….. U.S. military and other agencies practicing specifically to handle a radiological incident in the region seems even more noteworthy in light of a number of recent events. Most importantly are Russian claims that it has been testing a cruise missile with theoretically unlimited range that uses a nuclear reactor-powered propulsion system in the Arctic. Anonymous U.S. government officials have since told various media outlets that this is true, but that the weapons have been crashing, potentially spreading radioactive material and components.

…… The Russians have also been dramatically expanding their use and plans to employ small and mobile nuclear reactors to support activities in the Arctic.

….. In addition, there are reports that Russia has begun to develop and potentially deploy small underwater nuclear reactors

……..If any of these nuclear power systems were to fail, it could potentially cause a serious radiological incident that would impact both the United States and Canada. The same procedures American military and other government personnel have been training to employ in response to a crashed satellite would undoubtedly be applicable in those situations, too.

So, while the idea of radioactive space debris might serve as a ready exercise scenario, there are a growing number of very real radiological dangers in the Arctic. Unless the Russians change course, the need to be prepared for a nuclear incident only looks set to become more pronounced in the near future. Contact the author:


March 21, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, environment, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s underwater nuclear graveyard – a great place for fishing?

Russia’s Arctic nuclear dump may become promising fishing area

Thousands of containers with radioactive waste were dumped in the Kara Sea during Soviet times. Now, Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishing believes it’s a good idea to start fishing. By Thomas Nilsen March 15, 2018

“We shall present soon a program on development of promising fishing in the Kara Sea,” said Sergey Golovanov at the 5th international conference of fishing in the Arctic, organized in Murmansk this week. He is quoted by news agency TASS.

Golovanov is head of the Science and Education Department with the Federal Agency for Fisheries and has a background from PINDRO, the Marine research institute in Murmansk.

According to Gulovanov, the Kara Sea’s advantage for the fishing industry is that it is a shelf sea, it does not border any territorial waters of other nations. “This is why Russia can have own fishing regulations there,” he said according to TASS.

In 2013, a Norwegian-Russian joint study expedition to the dump-site of K-27 concluded that it is feasible to lift the ill-fated submarine from the seabed. Although dumped 30 years ago, the hull of the submarine is intact.

Several other areas of the Kara Sea were also visited by the science expedition.

Nuclear weapons testing

Additional to the nuclear waste dumped across the Kara Sea, the waters are also next to the Soviet Union’s largest testing area for nuclear weapons. At Novaya Zemlya, 79 nuclear- and hydrogen bombs where detonated in the atmosphere between 1955 and 1962. In the period from 1963 to 1990 another 35 warheads were tested in tunnels under ground. Today, most of Novaya Zemlya is closed off miitary area.

At the conference in Murmansk, nothing was said about the Kara Sea being the main dumping ground for nuclear waste during Soviet times. No other oceans worldwide have more dumped radioactive waste than Russia’s Arctic Kara Sea.

Here, there, everywhere

17 ships and barges loaded with radioactive waste are dumped here. So are 17,000 containers with radioactive waste. Even worse, along the east coast of Novaya Zemlya is 16 nuclear reactors dumped, six of them with spent uranium fuel still on board.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, both the military Northern Fleet and the civilian icebreakers stopped dumping waste at sea.

Entire nuclear sub dumped in 1982

On shallow waters in the Stepovogo Bay on the southeast coast of Novaya Zemlya, an entire nuclear-powered submarine, the K-27, was dumped in 1982.

The submarine had then been laid-up for more than 15 years after one of the two troublesome reactors suffered a severe leakage of radioactive gasses and inadequate cooling causing extensive fuel element failures.

Dumping the entire submarine at sea was done in what the Soviet reactor engineers and scientists believed would be a safe way to avoid leakages of radionuclides into the marine environment.

The two on board reactors are liquid-metal cooled and contain spent nuclear fuel, 800 kilograms of uranium to be precise.

Both Russian and Norwegian radiation experts have repeatedly warned that failing to lift the submarine eventually one day will cause leakages of radioactivity into the Kara Sea. A worst-case scenario has even pointed to the danger of an uncontrolled chain reaction that could be triggered inside the reactor in case sea water one day starts to leak in through the protecting cover that today isolates the compartment holding the two reactors.

In 2013, a Norwegian-Russian joint study expedition to the dump-site of K-27 concluded that it is feasible to lift the ill-fated submarine from the seabed. Although dumped 30 years ago, the hull of the submarine is intact.

Several other areas of the Kara Sea were also visited by the science expedition.

Nuclear weapons testing

Additional to the nuclear waste dumped across the Kara Sea, the waters are also next to the Soviet Union’s largest testing area for nuclear weapons. At Novaya Zemlya, 79 nuclear- and hydrogen bombs where detonated in the atmosphere between 1955 and 1962. In the period from 1963 to 1990 another 35 warheads were tested in tunnels under ground. Today, most of Novaya Zemlya is closed off miitary area.

March 17, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, oceans, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

British nuclear submarine joins American naval exercises under Arctic ice

Britain Sends Nuclear Sub Under Arctic Ice As Tensions With Russia Heat Up, Sputnik News, 16 Mar 18,     One British and two US nuclear submarines are taking part in a joint naval exercise currently underway in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish heavy torpedoes, the HMS Trenchant is the first British nuclear sub to be deployed under the Arctic ice in a decade.

It joined a pair of the US Navy’s fast attack submarines the USS Hartford and USS Connecticut, both of which surfaced in the Arctic Circle on March 10 as part of the multinational maritime Ice Exercise 2018……..

March 17, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment