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Executive Summary for January 15th

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including how low oil prices are leading to a crisis in Norway’s oil industry despite untapped offshore reserves, and how warming could lead to considerable thawing of Alaska’s North Slope.

Published on Jan. 15, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Downturn Seen in Norway’s Oil Industry

More than half of Norway’s potential offshore reserves may remain untapped as lower crude oil prices plummet, reports UPI.

An analysis of total investments into oil and gas by Statistics Norway, a government agency, found an 11.8 percent year-over-year decline.

Investments in oil are expected to decline about 10 percent to 135 billion kroner ($15 billion) this year, according to a report released on Thursday by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), the country’s oil-industry regulator. Investments will continue to drop in 2018 and will not rise until 2019, Bloomberg reported.

Norway’s oil industry “is in a crisis,” Bente Nyland, the director general of the NPD, told Bloomberg. Norway is one of the region’s largest suppliers of oil and natural gas.

The price of oil tumbled to a 12-year low of about $29.73 a barrel on Wednesday, more than 70 percent since the middle of 2014.

Despite declines in investments, activity remains greater than a decade ago, according to the Arctic Journal.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian state-controlled company Statoil has purchased an 11.9 percent stake in the Swedish oil exploration company Lundin Petroleum, the Financial Times reported. Statoil is a major oil producer in Norway, but has struggled with oil exploration, according to the article.

Warming Could Bring Substantial Alaskan Permafrost Thaw

The permafrost of the northernmost portions of Alaska have long been thought to be more stable and resilient to the effects of global warming than the permafrost of the Alaskan interior. But now permafrost researcher Vladimir Romanovsky, from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, has his doubts, reports Climate Central.

His new research suggests that if warming continues, more than half of the permafrost on Alaska’s north slope could thaw by the end of the century. If that were to happen, it could threaten infrastructure, ecosystems and likely release greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere.

The ground temperatures in the region have been rising for 30 years, Romanovsky said at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In 1998, the mean annual ground temperature at a research site in Deadhorse, a community on the northern coast of Alaska, was -8C (17.6F). Today, it is -1.9C (28.5F), the Bristol Bay Times reported.

A recent study found that as much as 25 percent of the permafrost in Alaska could thaw by the end of the century due to climate change, Climate Central reported in December.

Recommended Reading

Top image: As much as half of the permafrost on Alaska’s North Slope could thaw by the end of the century if warming continues. Coastal erosion reveals the extent of ice-rich permafrost underlying active layer on the Arctic Coastal Plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve, in Alaska.

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