Executive Summary for August 26th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including Norway’s decision to build a fence along its border with Russia and how the expansion of Arctic lakes is releasing ancient carbon into the atmosphere.

Published on Aug. 26, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Norway Builds Fence Along Russian Border

Norway has started to build a fence along the Arctic border it shares with Russia, after more than 5,000 migrants crossed into the country last year.

The Norwegian government said the new fence and gate will extend across the Storskog border point to improve security, reported Reuters. Sweden also tightened its border controls and asylum rules this year.

Russia maintains a fence that runs along the 200 km (120 mile) border with Norway, according to the article. The new fence will be 200 meters (660 feet) long and 3.3 meters (11 feet) high, and indicates a change in public attitudes towards refugees.

Some refugees found the Arctic route safer than crossing the Mediterranean. Most of the migrants who crossed into Norway along the northern route were from Syria.

Ancient Carbon Seeping from Thawing Permafrost

Greenhouse gases locked into permafrost beneath Arctic lakes for thousands of years are beginning to leak into the atmosphere.

According to a new study published this week, lakes in Alaska, Siberia and Canada are expanding as the climate warms, thawing the permafrost below and making the long-frozen soil available to microbes to digest and turned into carbon dioxide and methane, reports the Canadian Press.

The study comes at a time when NASA is calling the low levels of Arctic sea ice the “new normal,” according to a number of media reports. Arctic sea ice helps keep the planet cool by reflecting solar energy away.

In a recent comment in the Guardian, Peter Wadhams, a sea ice researcher from Cambridge University in the U.K., said most people expected to see a record low in the Arctic’s summer sea-ice cover this year. Following that statement, Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, cautioned against making unsupported predictions.

None of the sea-ice forecasts submitted by any of the 40 international groups to the Sea Ice Prediction Network indicate that the sea ice will reach a record low this year, he said.

Crystal Serenity Sails into Canadian Waters

The Crystal Serenity, a luxury cruise ship ferrying nearly 1,000 passengers and 600 crew, is approaching the entrance to the Northwest Passage.

According to the ship’s blog, the vessel is now en route to Ulukhaktok, a community of 400 people, and the first of three stops in Canada before sailing to Greenland, reported the Globe and Mail.

Some Inuit leaders are concerned that similar large expeditions could overwhelm small communities and damage delicate ecosystems, reported the Observer. Others have criticized it as “extinction tourism.”

It is the first time a ship of this size will attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage. Its voyage could mark the beginning of more tourism and commercial traffic through an area that was once choked with ice.

As the cruise ship passes through the Arctic, U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force and Alaskan state agencies are hosting a large search-and-rescue exercise in the Bering Strait. The scenario begins with a distress call from an expedition-sized cruise ship with 250 passengers and crew on board, reported the Maritime Executive.

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