Executive Summary for April 29th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including the E.U.’s new Arctic Policy and how a faulty satellite sensor produced unreliable sea ice readings.

Published on April 29, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

The E.U. Launches Its New Arctic Policy

The European Union presented new guidance on Arctic policy, rooted in the environment, sustainable development and international cooperation, reported Deutsche Welle.

The E.U. has already committed to cutting greenhouse gases by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. It has set aside 20 percent of its budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The bloc will join international efforts to limit black carbon and methane emissions, eliminate pollutants and heavy metals entering the Arctic food web and direct its Arctic research institutes to develop an integrated research program, among other initiatives, reported the Maritime Executive.

The new communication falls short of its aspirations to integrate E.U. Arctic policy, Adam Stepien and Andreas Raspotnik said in the first of a three-part analysis of the document. But it does show promise, they said.

Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen applauded the E.U. on its approach because it matches many of the issues Denmark has decided to address, the Copenhagen Post reported.

Faulty Sensor Takes Down Sea Ice Tracker

Inaccurate images of dramatically diminished sea ice posted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center in early April were caused by a faulty sensor, according to the Washington Post.

The April 5 image showed the Arctic nearly free of sea ice, reported Nunatsiaq Online. The NSIDC said a sensor on the F17 satellite had malfunctioned and was misreading the sea ice extent and concentration.

The F17 satellite, which has been in orbit since 2006, was one of the main ways to monitor sea ice in the Arctic, Walt Meier, a sea ice expert at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Washington Post. It carried a sensor that detected the microwaves emitted by the Earth and was not affected by clouds or darkness, making it ideal for the Arctic.

The NSIDC said all the data received since April 5 are unreliable and has removed them from its archive. The F17 satellite had been part of a series of satellites in operation since 1978, meaning the sea ice monitoring program had amassed a continuous 40-year record of sea ice that is now in jeopardy.

The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) has launched a new satellite every few years since 1987, with the most recent – F19 – in 2014. But the next one, F20, remains in storage, following a failed funding request from Congress for the program, the Post reported.

Data from other satellites may not merge well with the F-series data on sea ice, Meier warned, and could break the nearly 40-year record on sea ice data, which climate modellers use to make predictions about the future.

Cruise Tourism Grows in Nunavut

More cruise ship passengers are visiting Nunavut, but they leave less money in the territory because they eat and sleep on board the cruise ships, the CBC reported.

According to new survey data, 16,750 people visited Nunavut between May and October 2015. Business travelers made up the largest group (69 percent) of tourists to the region, followed by cruise ship passengers (16 percent).

Since 2011, the number of cruise ship tourists visiting Nunavut has grown from 1,890 to 2,750. But they spend four times less money than business travelers, land-based travelers (hikers, campers and those who stay in bed-and-breakfasts) and people who visit friends and relatives in Nunavut, reported Nunatsiaq Online. Whereas each business traveler spent C$2,533 on average, cruise tourists spent C$692 on average.

The report finds that the territory’s tourism agency should spend its money on attracting more land-based tourists to the region, cruise ships should encourage more spending on land and that Nunavummiut should develop more outfitting and tour businesses and have more art, carvings and other souvenirs available to tourists.

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