Yereth Rosen

A river on Alaska’s North Slope is eroding along one of its sections faster than that of any river in the permafrost regions of North America and Eurasia, a team of scientists from Alaska, Russia, Germany and Canada has found. The towering bluff about midway down the 215-mile Itkillik River, which flows from the central Brooks Range to the Colville River, lost nearly 19 meters (62.3 feet) a year between 1995 and 2010 along a nearly half-mile stretch, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and other institutions. In comparison, some other rivers in the region that are rapidly eroding -- like the Colville and Sagavanirktok in Alaska and the Mackenzie in Canada -- are generally losing riverbank in their most active areas at rates of about 1 meter to 11...Yereth Rosen
To protect human health and safeguard the environment, governments and utility companies around the world have worked -- successfully -- to reduced the amount of sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere. But there's a downside to cleaning the air of sulfur dioxide and similar pollutants: Arctic sea ice is more exposed to solar heat, and more of it melts. Now, Environment Canada researchers, in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters , have put a number on the sea-ice melt that reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide (and certain other aerosols , tiny particles that are suspended in the atmosphere) are expected to cause: about 400,000 square miles or 1 million square kilometers. That's the amount of ice melt, according to the study's calculation, that's likely to be attributable...Yereth Rosen
A pair of independent companies with dreams of developing Arctic Alaska’s shale oil won exploration rights to 174,240 acres on the North Slope in a state lease sale Wednesday in Anchorage, while ConocoPhillips used a federal lease sale to expand its holdings along the western edge of the North Slope oil infrastructure. The back-to-back lease sales were scheduled deliberately by the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas and the Bureau of Land Management to stimulate industry interest and boost efficiency. In the state lease sale, which offered 2.2 million acres across the central North Slope, Accumulate Energy Alaska Inc., a subsidiary of Australia-based 88 Energy Limited ., and Houston-based Burgundy Xploration LLC teamed up to spend about $4.7 million for 121 tracts. The tracts are well south...Yereth Rosen
The Arctic Ocean and the northern Pacific Ocean, along with Antarctic waters, are acidifying faster than the rest of the world’s marine waters, a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-led study finds. The study, which analyzed measurements from thousands of monitoring stations across the globe, found these bodies acidified faster as carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere combines with natural sources of carbon swept into them by marine currents and held fast by low temperatures. Ocean acidification is the chemical transformation seawater undergoes as it absorbs and stores more carbon. The increasingly acidic water more easily dissolves the calcium carbonate from which many marine species make their shells -- affecting not only commercially important shellfish, such as...Yereth Rosen
For the third time since the late 1990s, federal regulators have embarked on an environmental review of an oil field that has languished off Alaska’s northern coast without development. The Liberty field , which targets an oil reservoir initially discovered in the 1980s, has a new operator and a new development plan -- replacing two previous plans that won regulatory approval but were never carried out because of various economic and technical problems. Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is starting a new environmental impact statement process to evaluate the development plan submitted earlier this year by new operator Hilcorp Energy Company . The Texas-based company last year bought a half-share in the project from BP Exploration Alaska Inc ., along with other BP assets on the...Yereth Rosen
You could call it revenge on the birds. While many marine birds are well known for their skills at diving into the sea to pluck out fishy meals, there is now solid evidence that some Pacific cod have turned the tables on the avian species. The practice came to light a few years ago when seafood workers in Dutch Harbor noticed that some of the cod they were processing came with extra features -- partially digested birds in the fish stomachs. Scientists from the Alaska SeaLife Center and University of Alaska have now examined remains of 74 birds collected from cod stomachs in 2011 and have some findings described in a study published online in the journal Marine Ornithology . The bird remains come from cod caught in the Aleutian Islands region, off Cape Sarichef in Unimak Pass, using trawl...Yereth Rosen
The biggest wildfire to burn on treeless Arctic tundra triggered a dramatic permafrost thaw that unfolded over several years, new research finds. A study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports examines the effects of the 2007 Anaktuvuk River fire , which burned about 400 square miles of land on the North Slope, more than all previous North Slope tundra fires combined. Long after the flames were extinguished on the surface, ice locked in the frozen earth below continued to melt, the study found, causing the land to slump and a pattern of angular ridges to emerge, said the study. The scientists, from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and other institutions, used LiDAR technology to measure the precise elevation of the land surface that had once...Yereth Rosen
Though abundant over much of mainland Alaska, snowshoe hares were, until recently, absent from the state’s northernmost Arctic region. When did they arrive, and why? A new study says the long-eared, big-footed hares, denizens of the boreal forests of northern North America, likely became established in Arctic Alaska in the middle or late 1970s, following the growth of tall shrubs in more northern areas brought on by gradual warming. The study, by scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service, was published in the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology . It links changes in spring snowmelt, far-north vegetation and temperature with animal observations, historical trapping records and other data. The...Yereth Rosen
For about 1,000 years at the end of the last ice age, the woolly mammoths, steppe bison, ancient horses and other Pleistocene animals that populated Alaska’s North Slope enjoyed a golden age, thriving on plentiful plants and roaming wide spaces, according to a newly published study . But a shifting climate changed the habitat they relied on while simultaneously cutting off retreat to Asia across what's now the Bering Strait. The study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science , relies on analysis of about 4,000 well-preserved bones dating back 40,000 years, cross-referenced with information about climate changes that occurred through those millennia. The transition period between the Pleistocene epoch and the current Holocene epoch -- a transition that happened...Yereth Rosen
Two ice-age infants discovered in Interior Alaska left a genetic record that suggests ancient culture in this part of the world was more diverse and complex than previously understood, new research shows. The infants -- one who died at about 6 weeks of age and one who died preterm at over 30 weeks of gestation -- were buried together and discovered in 2013 at a location east of Fairbanks near the Tanana River. The infants were buried with objects like decorated dart points and antler rods below what was determined to be an ancient hearth. Above the hearth were the cremated remains of a 3-year-old, found in 2010. All of the findings date to about 11,500 years ago. They are now the oldest human remains found in northern North America; the location is known as the Upward Sun River site. Now...Yereth Rosen