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Executive Summary for August 5th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including concerns that melting ice in Greenland might expose hazardous waste and a new report on the state of the climate.

Published on Aug. 5, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Melting Ice Could Expose U.S. Military Waste in Greenland

As climate change warms Greenland, an abandoned U.S. military base encased in ice for decades may appear on the surface, according to a new, widely reported, study.

In the 1960s, the U.S. military believed Camp Century, an city-under-ice built 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Greenland’s northwest coast, would remain frozen for thousands of years, UPI reported. A new study suggest that the ice sheet atop the military base will begin melting by the end of the century – if not earlier, reported CBC.

“It’s a new breed of climate change challenge we have to think about,” said William Colgan, a climate and glacier scientist at York University and lead author of the new study, in a statement. He warned that there may be “tons” of buried waste, including polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which can accumulate in animal tissues and cause cancer in humans, reported Mashable.

State of the Climate Report Underscores Ongoing Warming Trend

Last year saw climate records continue to tumble, according to the latest State of the Climate report released on Tuesday by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report, now in its 26th year, provides an annual assessment on the global climate, probing the land, oceans, ice and atmosphere.

Here’s a quick look at how rising greenhouse gas emissions made 2015 a record-breaking year – especially in the Arctic, where temperatures were 1.2C (2.2F) warmer than average.

Oceans

More heat is being stored in the Earth’s oceans than ever before, with hot spots appearing in the northeast Pacific, the Chukchi Sea, eastern Baffin Bay off western Greenland and the Kara Sea.

The sea ice is shrinking in both winter and summer. In 2015, it hit its lowest winter peak since satellite records began 37 years ago, 7 percent below the 1981-2010 average. And in the summer, it was 29 percent smaller than the average. It’s also younger: In February and March 2015, old thick ice occupied only 3 percent of the ice pack compared to 20 percent in 1985.

Those changes have forced vast walrus herds in the Pacific Ocean to haul out on land instead of on ice and have moved fish species accustomed to warmer waters to the coasts of Norway and Russia.

Land

For the 36th year in a row, Arctic glaciers have continued to lose mass. Alaska’s glaciers lost more ice in 2015 than any other year on record. The Greenland ice sheet experienced a greater number of melt days in 2015 than any other year. On July 4, 2015, more than half the area of the ice sheet was experiencing some degree of melting for the first time since 2012.

In Alaska, record-high temperatures helped fuel the state’s second-worst wildfire season, burning more than 5.1 acres of forest. Scientists studying the permafrost on the state’s North Slope found all their borehole observatories registered record high temperatures – they have been rising by up to 0.66C (1.2F) per decade since 2000.

Drones Changing Arctic Work

Russia has completed a test flight of a solar-powered drone that could be used to monitor its vast Arctic landscape and provide telecommunications links, reported RT.

Communications in the Arctic have been provided by satellites in orbit in space, but they don’t perform as well as they could. The fixed wing unmanned aircraft could be an inexpensive solution, according to the article.

Drones are becoming more popular in northern operations. Diavik Diamond Mines has invested in three drones to monitor millions of tonnes of crushed rock and gravel, improving the speed and safety of mine operations, according to the Canadian Mining Journal.

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