Yereth Rosen

Sea ice extent over the Arctic last month was the lowest for any January in the satellite record, with freeze-up slowed by unusually high air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean and an atmospheric pattern in the Atlantic side that moved cold weather to more southern latitudes, scientists said. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado reported that sea ice extent averaged 5.2 million square miles in January, about 7.1 percent below the 1981-2010 average and about 35,000 square miles lower than the previous record January low, which was set in 2011. The low ice extent was tied directly to unusual weather in the far north. “We had a January that was just absurdly warm over the Arctic Ocean,” said Mark Serreze , the center's director. That was partly the result of a negative turn in...Yereth Rosen
Why don’t the caribou cross the road? That is the question raised by a new study into caribou behavior around the road used for delivery of ore from the huge Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska. The decade-long study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, reveals that about a quarter of the caribou that encounter the 53-mile mine road balk at crossing it during their fall migration, causing them to delay their walk south. The study, which uses data from tracking devices worn by some of the animals in the Western Arctic and Teshekpuk herds, solves a mystery that for years has puzzled veteran biologist Jim Dau, a study co-author. Dau is retiring after decades of work in the region for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and has much experience watching the movements and...Yereth Rosen
Greenland’s glaciers are shedding ice at faster rates, dumping mass into ocean waters and driving up sea levels. But those glaciers come in so many varied shapes and conditions, and occupy a complex and little understood topography. Under such conditions, is it possible to calculate the volume of ice lost? Yes, according to a team of experts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks who have devised a mathematical model to do precisely that. Andy Aschwanden, Martin Truffer and Mark Fahnestock of UAF’s Geophysical Institute combined math and data from field tests to calculate the flow of 29 major inlet glaciers that spill out of Greenland’s ice sheet. The UAF scientists' model include the Jakobshavn Glacier , Greenland’s fastest-moving glacier. Jakobshavn has been on the move for a long time...Yereth Rosen
A veteran scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has won a prestigious international award for his work studying the changing climate in Alaska and elsewhere in the far north. John Walsh , chief scientist at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center, will receive the 2016 International Arctic Science Committee medal, the organization has announced. The IASC nominating committee voted unanimously to honor Walsh for his “exceptional contributions to modeling and evaluating climate change impacts in the Arctic, particularly with regard to his sustained and distinguished contributions to quantitatively improving our understanding of the Arctic, from climate and weather extremes to hydrology, sea ice variability and the human dimensions of climate change impacts; and for his...Yereth Rosen
Five decades after the nation’s most powerful earthquake hit Alaska, scientists have pinpointed the underwater slide that triggered some of the deadliest tsunami waves produced by the shaking. Using modern technology to map the floor of Prince William Sound, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and other organizations have found the landslide behind the tsunamis that killed about a third of the people in the Alutiiq village of Chenega , the service said on Monday. Twenty-three of the village’s 75 residents perished within minutes of the magnitude-9.2 earthquake that struck in 1964, making Chenega one of the communities hardest hit by the event. The village was nearly leveled and later rebuilt at a different site with a slightly different name, Chenega Bay. In the immediate aftermath...Yereth Rosen
The mass of dead seabirds that have washed up on Alaska beaches in past months is unprecedented in size, scope and duration, a federal biologist said at an Anchorage science conference. The staggering die-off of common murres , the iconic Pacific seabirds sometimes likened to flying penguins, is a signal that something is awry in the Gulf of Alaska, said Heather Renner, supervisory wildlife biologist at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge . “We are in the midst of perhaps the largest murre die-off ever recorded,” Renner told the Alaska Marine Science Symposium on Thursday. While there have been big die-offs of murres and other seabirds in the past, recorded since the 1800s, this one dwarfs most of them, Renner said. “This event is almost certainly larger than the murres killed in...Yereth Rosen
The rain-drenched Aleutian Islands, which curve from Alaska's mainland to Asia, lie about 800 to 1,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle. So why do the U.S. government's Arctic plans include enhanced shipping safety in the Aleutians and the similarly subarctic Bering Sea? There is a legal explanation. The 1,200-mile Aleutian chain, the Bering and other subarctic areas are considered part of the Arctic for the purposes of federal policy. That legal definition comes from the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 . The Arctic, according to that act, encompasses “all United States and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean...Yereth Rosen
Species normally evolve gradually in a process that unfolds over thousands -- sometimes millions -- of years. But scientists say they have discovered an Alaska fish population that appears to have transformed in the last 50 years -- a lightning-quick transformation, at least by evolutionary standards. The changes happened after the 1964 earthquake , the most powerful ever recorded in the United States, rearranged terrain around Southcentral Alaska and abruptly changed the habitat of some of the region's threespine stickleback, a small, widely distributed fish. When the quake lifted parts of Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska by as much as several meters, it created freshwater ponds on several islands. The stickleback that found themselves in those new ponds adapted rapidly when...Yereth Rosen
On the island formerly known as Rat, the rats are gone and the birds are back. So says a study by biologists that evaluated conditions at a remote Aleutian island five years after it was bombarded with rat-poison-laden pellets in one of the world’s most-watched rat-removal campaigns. “A range of terrestrial and marine birds have newly colonized, re-colonized, or increased in abundance following the eradication of invasive rats,” said the study, published in the journal Biological Invasions. The site was long known as Rat Island, a name with origins more than two centuries old. The rats that scurried ashore there from a wrecked Japanese sailing ship in the late 1700s were the first ever to invade any part of Alaska. Generations that followed dominated the island and found easy meals among...Yereth Rosen
Environmental groups have filed motions Wednesday to intervene in support of the Interior Department’s decision to reject Royal Dutch Shell's request to extend its offshore Arctic leases. The groups filed their motion with the Interior Department’s Board of Land Appeals , an agency tasked with reviewing disputed department rulings. Shell announced in September that its 2015 exploration drilling had yielded disappointing results and it was abandoning its Alaska program “for the foreseeable future.” But the Anglo-Dutch oil company is seeking to hold onto its leases , originally issued with 10-year terms. Shell's Beaufort Sea leases are set to expire in 2017 and its Chukchi leases in 2020. In 2014, Shell asked the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, an Interior agency regulating...Yereth Rosen