Yereth Rosen

Toxins produced by harmful algal blooms are showing up in Alaska marine mammals as far north as the Arctic Ocean -- much farther north than ever reported previously, new study published Thursday finds. The study, by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and other organizations, details findings from a decade’s worth of sampling of 13 marine mammal species in Alaska. The study was published online in the journal Harmful Algae, and is the first-ever documentation of algae-related toxins in marine mammals north of the Arctic Circle, said co-author Frances Gulland of the Marine Mammal Center in California. “This is really the first time that the levels are appearing in Arctic animals,” said Gulland, who was in Anchorage...Yereth Rosen
Controls on underwater noise and protections for an area that is a food-foraging hot spot are among the elements of a new five-year, five-part action plan aimed at nudging Cook Inlet’s endangered beluga whales toward recovery. The plan, released Wednesday by the National Marine Fisheries Service, lays out actions the agency plans to take over the next five years -- as long as funding is available and cooperating agencies participate. The action plan is part of a broader program, including a recovery plan , aimed at improving prospects for a population that continues to struggle 16 years after formal protections were granted to it. “The action plan for Cook Inlet belugas will go a long way in helping us secure the partnerships and support that we need to recover this extremely vulnerable...Yereth Rosen
Any final action by the federal government blocking large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region will likely have to wait until the next presidential administration, a top Environmental Protection Agency official said Monday. Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA’s Pacific Northwest region, said litigation by the company seeking to build the controversial Pebble Mine has forced a delay in action on the agency’s plan to use a Clean Water Act provision to prevent a big mine from being built in the salmon-rich region. EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment , launched in 2011 in response to concerns in Alaska about Pebble impacts, resulted in a 2014 decision to start a Clean Water Act process precluding development of large-scale metals mining there. Three lawsuits filed by the Pebble...Yereth Rosen
To survive the harsh conditions of the Arctic, polar bears roaming Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coastline subsist on the equivalent of about one adult ringed seal every 10 days and, to make those fatty calories last, spend most of their daylight hours lounging around on the ice and snow, new research shows. Beaufort Sea polar bears equipped in 2014 and 2015 with Fitbit-like devices and neck cameras revealed their daily routines to scientists studying their food needs. Data from the seven adult female bears tracked in the springs of 2014 and 2015 showed they spent, on average, about 70 percent of daylight hours resting, the U.S. Geological Survey-led research has found. They spent only about 15 percent of their time walking, the research found. The rest of the time was divided among swimming,...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