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Yereth Rosen

The U.S. agency that explores outer space is also probing another frontier -- the rapidly warming climate in Alaska and other parts of the Far North.

NASA has launched three Alaska-based projects to better understand how warming is changing the size and behavior of glaciers, the release of carbon gases from thawing permafrost and the interplay between sea ice, clouds and weather in and above the Arctic Ocean.

At a teleconferenced briefing on Tuesday, scientists working on the three NASA projects explained why changes on this part of the planet Earth are important to the space agency...

Yereth Rosen

The U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet of two operating Arctic-class icebreakers will be sufficient -- if barely so -- for about another six years, the new Alaska commandant said Monday.

Rear Adm. Daniel Abel , who took over in June as the commandant for the sprawling Alaska district, told the U.S. Arctic Research Commission the Coast Guard can get by with its operating icebreakers, the Healy and the Polar Star ...

Yereth Rosen

A lawsuit filed against the state by six Alaska children claiming that officials have failed in their obligations to address climate change was rightfully dismissed in 2012, but not for the reasons cited in the lower court’s decision, the state Supreme Court said in a ruling issued on Friday.

The six minor plaintiffs -- children of ages ranging from infancy to their teens -- “do make a good case” that the atmosphere is a public trust and that environmental damage is of public interest, the Supreme Court said. The lower court erred in determining that the public-trust doctrine did not apply, according to the opinion...

Yereth Rosen

Pacific walrus numbers dropped by about half from 1981 to 1999, likely due to a combination of hunting and changes to the animals' icy habitat, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey, based on the most complete population data yet released on the difficult-to-study walruses.

The study , published online in the journal Marine Mammal Science, is the most up-to-date and comprehensive population information released about the large Arctic marine mammals that depend on dwindling amounts of floating summer sea ice to search for food, rest and raise their young.

The USGS study found that the walrus decline was steepest in the early 1980s, then moderated in the 1990s...

Yereth Rosen

After five months of melt, Arctic sea ice is near its annual minimum and is tracking at levels close to those recorded a year ago, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center .

Average August ice extent was the seventh lowest since satellite records began in 1979 -- well below the average rates measured but well above the average August coverage measured in the biggest-melt years, 2012, 2007 and 2011, said the Boulder, Colorado-based center.

Melt rates this August were about normal, in line with a 10.3 percent-per-decade decline seen since satellite records began, the center said...

Yereth Rosen

Reduced ice cover is stimulating a new phenomenon in the Arctic -- extra blooms of phytoplankton occurring in the fall, just before freeze-up, in addition to the usual springtime blooms, new research finds.

A study , led by scientists at Canada’s Laval University and published online in the journal Geophysical Research letters, describes the autumn blooms that have become more frequent in the past 15 years...

Yereth Rosen

Two years after its ill-fated drilling season in Arctic waters off Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday submitted a revised plan intended to show how oil exploration will go more smoothly the next time the company drills in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell submitted the plan to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management , but has “made no formal decision” to carry out the drilling program, company spokeswoman Megan Baldino said.

“We’ve put a plan forward in order to preserve our options for a 2015 season,” she said...

Yereth Rosen

Wacky weather may be hazardous to people’s health, at least in far-flung areas of Alaska, according to researchers who have been conducting a multiyear study in eight communities around the state.

Abrupt shifts in temperature or winds, fierce downpours in lieu of steady but more moderate rains and prolonged periods of unusually hot, dry weather are some of the conditions that were correlated with human health problems, according to the research, which is being conducted by University of Alaska scientists.

Among the findings so far: Accidental injuries like hypothermia and frostbite increased about fourfold in communities where people had to change travel plans because of weather...

Yereth Rosen

Amid the grim statistics about suicide in the far north there are some bright spots -- and potential lessons for preventing future tragedies -- according to presentations given this week at an international epidemiology conference in Anchorage.

Suicide rates for Alaska Natives 70 and older are low, only half the national rates for that age group, according to information gathered by James Allen , a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues...

Yereth Rosen

For former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp , newly appointed as the government's top Arctic envoy , leading American circumpolar policy is somewhat akin to sailing in volatile conditions.

“One thing I learned as a sailor: You play the hand of cards that you’re dealt,” Papp said in an interview on Monday. Papp was appointed a month ago by Secretary of State John Kerry as the U.S. special representative for the Arctic...

Yereth Rosen