Vietnam’s vast wind power potential

A giant wind-farm off the south coast is one of more than 150 wind power projects planned in Vietnam; the 1GW Vinh Phong project will be funded by a Russian-Belgian JV, but Hanoi needs to improve its clunky electricity grid so renewable projects can be fully incorporated in coming years

(AF) A plethora of international players are beating a path to Vietnam to take part in its renewables ramp-up – the largest in Southeast Asia – which includes both solar and onshore wind and now even an offshore wind project development.

The most recent to show interest includes Russian state-owned oil and gas producer Zarubezhneft and Belgian marine contractor DEME Offshore.

The two signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build the proposed Vinh Phong project. It is a 1-gigawatt (GW) offshore wind farm proposal with a cost of $3.2 billion. Vinh Phong is located in southern Vietnam, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business hub.

The two partners look to commission the first phase of the project, with 600-megawatts (MW) worth of capacity, by 2026, prior to a second phase with a further 400MW capacity by 2030. If plans hold tight, it could be Vietnam’s first offshore wind farm and it is anticipated that more will follow.

Zarubezhneft said it will share investment costs with a specially formed investment vehicle called DEME Concessions Wind. Under the MoU, the two firms will get oil and gas producing venture Vietsovpetro and DEME Offshore to manage the construction process.

Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between Zarubezhneft and state-run PetroVietnam, already operates several offshore oil and gas blocks in Vietnam.

Zarubezhneft

Zarubezhneft set a goal of entering both the wind and solar sector in Vietnam, Cuba, Southern Europe and Russia. These plans, not surprisingly, suffered setbacks due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year and a subsequent pullback in global oil prices amid the worst slump in demand for oil ever, which caused a drop to multi-year lows. However, global oil prices have recovered, with the global oil benchmark, London-traded Brent crude, now hovering above $70 per barrel, with price appreciation and forecasts that demand will increase for the rest of the year.

Vietnam’s clean energy transition

Zarubezhneft’s disclosure comes as Vietnam undergoes systemic changes in its energy sector. This stems from a forecast natural gas supply shortage that will impact its power generation capacity with potential brown and black-outs, mostly earmarked for the more populated south. However, Covid-19 related economic contraction has pushed that forecast back at least a year or two.

Vietnam’s energy quandary also stems from steady economic growth and more energy consumption, as well as geopolitical interference. Over the past several years, China has prevented PetroVietnam and its foreign partners from developing natural gas resources in Vietnam’s own UN-mandated 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, a problem not dissimilar to that faced by the Philippines.

To offset this supply shortage, Hanoi initially focused on developing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. Currently, two LNG import terminals are being constructed in the southern part of the country. With at least six more approved, and possibly more considering projects pending approval at various provincial levels. Vietnam also has as many as 22 LNG-to-Power projects in its soon to be released Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8), to 2030 with guidance to 2045.

Over 150 wind projects proposed

Vietnam has marked advantages in its renewables ambitions over many of its neighbors in the region. It is including a vast coastline of some 3,260 km (2,030 miles), excluding islands. It is ideal for both offshore and near-shore wind-power development. By way of comparison, only around 3% of neighbouring Thailand’s land mass has suitable wind speeds needed to drive turbines, which greatly hinders the country’s capacity to develop wind power.

Vietnam’s solar radiation in most parts of the country is also ideal for solar project development. And it has contributed to its quick build-out, which seems to have peaked last year.

Much of the country’s recent success with solar can also be attributed to Hanoi approving generous feed-in-tariffs (FIT). These tariffs encourage investment in renewable energy by guaranteeing an above-market price for producers. Since they usually involve long-term contracts, FITs help mitigate the risks inherent in renewable energy production.

Tax exemptions to reduce investment risks

The government has also approved FITs for its wind-power development, with those tariffs up for review at the end of October. It also offers various tax exemptions to reduce investment risks.

Yet, Vietnam’s wind power development pales in comparison to its solar build-out. By the end of 2020, wind power accounted for just 1% (670MW) of the country’s energy mix. It is compared to 16.6GW for solar, including rooftop solar, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Under PDP8, the next power development plan, the country aims to ramp-up solar capacity to 18.6GW and wind capacity to 18GW by 2030. Vinh Phong, for its part, is one of as many as 157 wind farm projects proposed in Vietnam.

Three weeks ago, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $116-million loan with three Vietnamese firms to finance the construction and operation of three 48MW wind farms, totaling 144MW, in the central province of Quang Tri.

The projects will increase Vietnam’s wind-power capacity by as much as 30%, helping it to also offset the country’s still troubling reliance on coal needed for power generation. Coal still makes nearly 40% of the country’s energy mix, and that figure looks likely to remain steady until to at least the middle of the next decade.

The ADB’s move three weeks ago was its first wind-power project in Vietnam and comes just a month after the bank said it would stop funding most fossil fuel projects in the region, even natural gas, under most scenarios.

Electricity grid needs urgent improvements

However, as promising as Vietnam’s renewables build-out is, several problems remain, including power grid curtailment. Simply put, the country needs new transmission and distribution infrastructure to accommodate additional capacity and transmit the new power to where it’s needed.

The problem is already being felt by a number of power projects that have had to curtail production since transmission lines are already operating at capacity. Especially in areas where there is a concentration of solar power. This has resulted in less electricity being produced, less revenue earned and an inability of some project backers to service debts incurred to build projects.

Similar problems – depending on each location’s specific grid development – could see otherwise bankable wind power projects, (onshore, near-shore and offshore) unable to obtain necessary funding to go forward.

But the Vietnamese government is now starting to address this problem. It recently  adopted a new law that improves and prioritizes grid development. And grid development is now a priority in the draft PDP8, the first time it’s been included in the country’s PDP.

However, expanding grid capacity is both capital and time intensive. Build-out times can range to as much as five years or more. Other countries are also confronting similar situations when building renewable power projects, including heavyweights such as Germany and the UK.

There are some short-term solutions for grid congestion, however, such as utility scale battery storage, grid enhancing techniques, plus topology optimization software. All of these improve grid resilience and reliability, and prevent bottlenecks, but the long-term solution is still expanding Vietnam’s transmission grid.

How Rosatom built a huge 150 MW wind farm

How much more is planned in the near future?

In the second half of 2020, Rosatom built a wind farm, unique in its scale. It is in Adygea, which became the largest in Russia and one of the largest in Europe.

Russia is considered to be a fan of traditional hydrocarbon energy. This is true given the huge reserves of natural gas, oil and coal in the depths of the country and on the continental shelf, mainly in the richest Arctic zone.

However, in recent years, Russia has been investing heavily in the creation of large facilities in the field of alternative renewable energy. 

One of these facilities is the Adyghe wind farm. 

The construction of wind energy facilities in Adygea was carried out on a land plot with an area of ​​14 hectares. In total, Rosatom has installed 60 facilities. Each wind turbine is 150 m high and rated at 2.5 megawatts. 

In total, all 60 wind turbines generate energy with a capacity of 150 MW.

The length of one blade is 50 m, and each object weighs over eight and a half tons.

The blades for the Adyghe wind farm were ordered several years ago in India, but since 2020, such blades have been produced in Russia at the Ulyanovsk plant, which has already shipped the first batch of domestic blades for wind power facilities in Denmark.

The new wind farm in Adygea can generate about 350,000,000 kWh annually.

The commissioning of only one of this wind power plant allowed to increase the volume of electricity generation in the entire Republic of Adygea by 20%

It is important that Rosatom does not stop at the development of alternative energy facilities. 

So recently, a large wind farm with a total capacity of 86 MW was built in the Ulyanovsk region, and very soon a huge wind farm will be built in the Stavropol Territory.

In terms of its size and production capacity, it will surpass the new Adyghe wind farm and will generate annually up to 210 MWh.

An equally large alternative energy facility, which is being built in the Republic of Kalmykia, is on its way. 

And the largest wind farm until 2023 is planned to be built in the Astrakhan and Rostov regions. They will generate 350 MW each year.

The cost of building each of these huge wind farms is estimated at 30,000,000,000 rubles.

For comparison, the largest wind farm in Europe, built in the UK in 2013, generates about 630 MW.

Generally # plans Rosatom for the construction of wind farms is very ambitious. In the next two years alone, Rosstat plans to build and commission wind power plants with a total capacity of over 1 GW.

This Tiny Single-Piston Hydrogen Engine Offers A New Take On Internal Combustion

Bilal Waqar

Tiny single-piston hydrogen engine reverts the power back to the old-fashioned combustion engines.

Aquarius, the company behind the build based in Israel unveiled the tiny hydrogen engine and hopes that it can replace gas engine generators and hydrogen fuel cells in the future models of electric vehicles.

The engine weighs only 10 kg and a single moving piston aids it in developing power. The purpose behind the small build is to power an off-grid micro-generator.

Aquarius in its previous single-piston range used more conventional fossil fuels to create combustion. That is now swapped with emissions-slashing hydrogen. Austrian Engineering Firm AVL-Schrick testified that the small engine runs on hydrogen.

“It was always our dream at Aquarius Engines to breathe oxygen into hydrogen technology as the fuel of the future. From initial tests, it appears that our hydrogen engine, that doesn’t require costly hydrogen fuel-cells, could be the affordable, green and sustainable answer to the challenges faced by global transport and remote energy production.”

Despite being lightweight and small, the Aquarius engine design is straightforward and low maintenance. All-in-all it contains a total of 20 parts out of which the only moveable one is the piston. Amazingly, the small engine comes excluding the biggest of the concern relating to the engine and its performance, the engine oil, as per the company behind its build it does not requires any lubrication to perform.

The fossil fuel engines developed by Aquarius are undergoing initial testing in the field in North America, Europe, and Asia. In collaboration with Nokia, the company has completed its phase-one testing. Nokia foresees installing these micro-generators at communication towers in far-off places. A software also built by Aquarius would aid in monitoring the output and efficiency of the generators from the control rooms back in more developed areas.

Phase two testing would include Nokia testing these small generators at pilot sites in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Singapore.

The video below shows how its parts come together to form the whole of the mini engine.

Originally published by Wonderful Engineering

Germany and Russia to work on hydrogen

Russia and Germany will jointly implement projects in hydrogen energy. The corresponding agreement was reached by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak with the Minister of Economy and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany Peter Altmeier

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, the rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko and the ex-Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Klaus Toepfer, according to the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Russian Federation.

“We agreed that it is important to make joint projects in hydrogen energy. The Prime Minister of the Federal State of Saxony (FRG) Michael Kretschmer recently visited. He proposed joint projects in the field of hydrogen, ” Novak said at the meeting.

“I will give instructions to the Ministry of Energy of Russia so that we jointly propose one or two projects from which we would start,” added the Deputy Prime Minister, whose words are quoted in the release of the Cabinet. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, it is necessary to continue working on joint energy projects.

A German company is already working with Gazprom on this issue.

Meanwhile, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are discussing the possibility of transporting hydrogen through the existing gas transmission system. The head of the German company, Mario Mehren, told about this in an interview with the corporate magazine of the Russian holding.

“As part of the Science and Technology Cooperation Program between Gazprom and Wintershall Dea, specialists from our companies and joint ventures are discussing current innovative projects in order to find ideas and jointly develop solutions,” Meren explained.

“This initiative has been around for almost 30 years. And it is one of the largest and most intensive exchange formats of this kind, ”said the head of Wintershall Dea. He stressed that during the pandemic, this work continued in an online format.

“For example, in recent months, there has been intense discussion of the possibility of adapting the existing pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of hydrogen. And the use of decarbonized solutions in our joint gas transportation business. Hopefully, soon we will be able to report on new projects in this area, ” Meren added .

In addition, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are planning a campaign to measure methane emissions. The goal is to reduce the intensity of these emissions during gas production. The partners also plan to jointly develop measures to improve the energy efficiency of compressor stations.

“I am convinced that international partnership will continue to play an important role in the future. And thanks to joint efforts to decarbonize the energy sector, we will be able to further strengthen and expand the successful Russian-German cooperation, ”Meren concluded.

Hypocritical US puts pressure on China over the environment…

Hypocritical US puts pressure on China over the environment… but it’s happy for Japan to dump radioactive waste

By Tom Fowdy

The US is framing China as a partner on climate change. However, in reality, its bid to make Beijing reduce emissions is politically motivated. And its approval of Japan’s plans to dispose of Fukushima waste exposes its dual standards.

Despite the growing stand-off between the United States and China, John Kerry is in town to talk climate change. Appointed by Joe Biden as the US special envoy on climate. Kerry landed in Shanghai on Thursday seeking commitment from China on carbon emissions.

The Biden administration has talked about the need to secure ‘cooperation’ from China on tackling global warming, but there’s little good faith to be found. Sparks won’t fly here. The environment is ultimately just another front to vilify Beijing.

Earlier this week, the US raised eyebrows as it gave open backing to Japan’s bid to release contaminated nuclear water from the Fukushima power plant into the sea. Predictably, the move drew angry protest from both China and South Korea. Yet, on the other hand, when Kerry arrived in Shanghai, he said he wanted to hold China to account on its climate pledges. A clear case of double standards in Beijing’s eyes, and also demonstrating that even so-called ‘cooperation’ is being framed with tough talk.

It’s clear the US isn’t asking China to be a partner on climate change. It is in Shanghai solely to make demands and talk down to it.

Scapegoating of China

While the Biden administration is, objectively speaking, more concerned about global climate issues than President Trump ever was, having re-joined the Paris climate accord, scapegoating China on the environment has remained a consistent theme within Washington, and there is a political incentive in doing so.

Despite the fact that China actually files more renewable energy patents than any country in the world. And despite China steaming ahead on electric cars, buses and other sustainable resources. The country is persistently stereotyped by the mainstream media as being a gigantic and notorious polluter. The Trump administration aggressively pursued this narrative in order to ramp up the idea of China as a threat. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even going as far as accusing Beijing of killing people in other countries through air pollution.

Of course, objectively speaking, there is a serious middle ground. We cannot deny the reality that China has an enormous population and the world’s largest industrial base. In terms of global carbon emissions obviously it matters a great deal. One cannot defeat climate change without securing China’s participation.

But one cannot also play down the notion that Beijing is being singled out on this matter. Why was Washington so quick to overlook Tokyo’s proposed dumping of radioactive waste, despite the implications it could have for the ocean? Why is it ignored that there are places with far worse air quality than China such as New Delhi, as well as cities in Bangladesh or Pakistan? Climate change is a global issue, which requires global participation. However, China is being given special treatment.

The goal is to constrain China’s development

The climate change debate is a convenient way to try to constrain China’s development by attempting to force it away from the one thing it needs the most right now, despite its strides in renewables – coal.

As a developing industrial nation, China’s need for energy is constantly surging. Coal is the most affordable and accessible commodity. Making it essential for sustained GDP growth, but it accounts for 40% of its carbon emissions. Renewables matter, but they cannot overnight satisfy the needs of 1.4 billion people and ‘the world’s factory’.

It’s for this reason that China is the largest importer of coal in the world. And so it should come as no surprise that John Kerry is demanding that China stop building new coal-fired fuel stations. A recent study found that if China is to meet its target of zero net emissions by 2060, it needs to reduce most of its capacity.

This makes for a difficult dilemma for China, which has committed to reducing emissions. However, it cannot easily divert from its existing development model. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Therefore, even though Kerry’s visit is depicted as a mission to seek accord, in reality, it is political and subtly confrontational. Plus smacks of hypocrisy, given America’s tolerance of Japan’s Fukushima decision. It’s clear that while the Earth might be warming up, the freezing of the relationship between China and the US continues apace as the new Cold War intensifies.


Tom Fowdy is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.


This is the chart that western media does not want you to see

Watch out! Biden wants to save the planet

Technology choices will decisively impact whether climate-pivoted economic policy brings benefit or disaster

By JONATHAN TENNENBAUM

President Joe Biden’s climate plan is a grandiose vision. Combining deliberate echoes of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal with the crash-program approach to development of technology. Exemplified by the Apollo program of the 1960s. If it works, planet Earth and the US economy will be saved at the same time.

Biden has vowed to establish US leadership in saving the planet from an impending climate apocalypse. His appointments of establishment climate activists to high positions in his administration, along with his opening salvos of executive orders, confirm his intention to make climate the central topic in all spheres of US government activity.

He calls it the “Whole of Government Approach to the Climate Crisis.”

Among other things Biden ordered a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the threat that climate change poses for US national security. He made climate officially the priority focus of US foreign policy. 

One has the distinct impression that the Biden Administration intends to use the climate crisis as an occasion for reasserting the primacy of US power in international affairs. Far beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, Biden has made clear that the United States will act as global enforcer of CO2 reduction measures. And, needless to say, he intends to focus especially on China. 

Biden has committed himself to making climate the center of US domestic economic policy. The recent executive orders already contain elements of his campaign promise to channel $2 trillion into building a “clean” national infrastructure. And thereby creating millions of new jobs and driving innovation and economic growth.

If all goes according to plan, by 2035 the US should have 100% CO2-free electricity generation. By 2050 total net emissions should reach zero.

“Social Cost System”

Among the first concrete steps is to initiate planning for replacing the entire fleet of over 600,000 vehicles used by federal government and the US Postal Service to zero-emission vehicles.

A key move, which has so far attracted little attention in the news media, is to implement the so-called “social cost system” as a guiding criterion for daily government decision-making. The social cost system is based on attaching a numerical value to the “global damage” attributed to emission of a given amount of carbon dioxide – in the production of a given commodity, for example.

This will have a big economic impact through the choice of products and vendors for government purchases, on which Washington spends about $600 billion a year.

The $2 trillion climate plan – whose funding must, of course, be approved by Congress – would follow on the heels of a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help the US economy and population recover from the effects of Covid-19.  

All in all, the degree of concentration of a US government on a single theme is practically unprecedented in peacetime. Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic there would doubtless be much more discussion about this radical course.  People who believe that global warming is the greatest crisis of our time might easily overlook problematic, even ominous implications of declared policies.   

I wish to emphasize that I am not motivated by political opposition to the Biden Administration. Nor, of course, do I oppose rational measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the world’s one-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

One should also keep an open mind in respect to any new administration, which carries contradictory interests and impulses with it into office. It may adjust its course as it confronts reality.

Taking Biden’s declarations very seriously

But there are reasons to take Biden’s declarations very seriously.

Firstly, to all appearances Biden and his close advisors truly believe that the world is headed toward an unprecedented catastrophe through global warming. And that the clock is ticking and that urgent action is necessary to reduce CO2 emissions world wide. Not only the US but other nations as well must do so. Especially the largest COemitters, with China in first place.

Countries that refuse to reduce their emissions by the necessary amounts voluntarily must be forced to do so. The logic is inescapable. 

Secondly, as Biden has emphasized for the United States, replacing the world’s entire fossil fuel infrastructure with “clean technology” over the next 30-40 years creates a new market of colossal dimensions. Assuming that the nations and populations are able to pay for it. 

Thirdly, immense amounts of financial capital have already been committed to the expectation of radical climate policies. CO2 emissions are being monetized and a vast financial machinery created, tying asset valuations to parameters such as “carbon intensity” and “sustainability indices.”

Climate projections are being built into long-term risk strategies and the premium structures of insurance companies. The volume of carbon trade is growing exponentially. With it, the market for climate-linked financial instruments such as green bonds (already at $500 billion) and other so-called green assets.

Shaping global investment patterns and financial flows

Thereby, climate policy becomes a powerful instrument for shaping global investment patterns and financial flows. In his 2020 “Open Letter to CEOs” Larry Fink, the Chairman of the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock, declared: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

In the meantime BlackRock, several of whose executives have been named to high positions in the Biden Administration. And announced that it is making climate change central to its investment strategy for 2021.

Thus, in all probability the Biden Administration will indeed pursue the radical course announced during his campaign and signaled by initial executive orders.

What will that mean?

From the positive side, I have reason to expect that areas of science and technology that are critically important for the future – nuclear fission and fusion, new materials, hydrogen technologies, high-density energy storage, applications of high temperature superconductivity and much more – will receive greater support under the new administration, than has been the case under preceding ones.

This is a crucial point. Leaving many other factors aside, the choice of technologies employed in the promised rebuilding of US infrastructure. Assuming it actually occurs. It will have a decisive impact on whether Biden’s climate-pivoted economic policy will benefit the nation or lead to disaster.

Following this introductory article no. 1, further installments in the series will take up the following concerns:

  • Green imperialism: Is the Biden Administration turning the climate issue into a vehicle for great-power geopolitics? 
  • Will Biden’s climate policy serve, defacto, as a vehicle for financial interests that are positioning themselves to profit from the tectonic shifts in global financial flows, arising from a forced move away from fossil fuels? Is this a “BlackRock Administration”?
  • Will overheated climate measures set the stage for a financial crisis? Major bets are being placed on the future of the world energy system, and market stability faces the dual menaces of a “green bubble” of climate-linked financial assets and a “carbon bubble” of potentially worthless fossil fuel assets.
  • Consider the risk of a California-like horror scenario: economically ruinous over-expansion of so-called renewable energy sources and ideologically-driven environmentalist measures, leading to exploding energy prices, blackouts, economic austerity, productivity losses and growing poverty. Will ill-conceived climate measures generate a political backlash and a resurgence of the Republicans, at latest by the 2024 Presidential elections?
  • Will the United States descend into economic and social crisis when the temporary, government money injections-induced “high” begins to wear off?
  • What’s the danger that ill-conceived measures by the Biden Administration, in the name of saving the planet, will undermine the capability of the United States and other nations to cope with climate changes in the future?
  • At the end I shall make some remarks concerning what a rational approach to the climate issue would look like.

Jonathan Tennenbaum received his PhD in mathematics from the University of California in 1973 at age 22. Also a physicist, linguist and pianist, he is a former editor of FUSION magazine. He lives in Berlin and travels frequently to Asia and elsewhere, consulting on economics, science and technology.

A Heat Wave Left Arctic Sea Ice Near a Record Winter Low. This Town Is Paying the Price

The second-lowest winter sea ice extent on record has isolated Bering Sea native communities and put coastal residents at the mercy of storms and wave

 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska _ It wasn’t long ago that planes would land on the ice surrounding Little Diomede Island, in the middle of the Bering Sea off Alaska.

This year, gigantic waves were crashing on its shores in the middle of winter.

“Now, the ice conditions are so unfavorable—or there’s no ice at all—they can’t land a plane out there,” said Brandon Ahmasuk, the subsistence director for Kawerak, a regional nonprofit that assists Bering Strait communities. That means the 80 to 100 people who live on the island can be isolated for long stretches during winter’s cold, dark months.

On Friday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that Arctic sea ice had reached its maximum winter extent for the year on March 17—its second lowest on record, just behind 2017.

Arctic sea ice grows through the winter and typically reaches its maximum extent across the region in mid-March, then starts to shrink toward a minimum, typically reached in September. For years, as global temperatures have risen, scientists have watched closely as summer sea ice levels dropped to record and near-record lows.

“The four lowest (winter maximum) extents have happened in the last four years,” NSDIC Director Mark Serreze said. “What it’s telling me is that the Arctic is really getting hit on both the summer and the winter side.”

Low Sea Ice Means Big Risks for Little Diomede

Along the Bering Sea, where ice formation limped along this season, communities that are normally protected by coastal ice packed in along the shore were left exposed to open water and the ravages of high winds and storm waves.

The community on Little Diomede—a traditional Ingalikmiut Eskimo village—relies on subsistence hunting. The lack of sea ice means planes can no longer land there to connect them to mainland Alaska. That leaves them with weekly helicopter flights to bring in goods or to transport passengers, but the flights don’t necessarily happen every week. “Getting on and off that island is pretty hard,” said Ahmasuk. “If you do get out there, you might get stuck for a month or more.”

Most locals use a lightweight, 18-20 foot boat for fishing and hunting, said Ahmasuk. The sides are low—just 28 or so inches. “Now, you’re in open ocean with 18-20 foot swells at your back, and it makes the conditions dangerous,” he said. “But people still have to put food on the table.”

Another ‘Weird’ Arctic Heat Wave

The lack of sea ice in the Bering Sea is partially responsible for the overall low ice levels in the Arctic this year. A February heat wave blasted across the Arctic, melting more than a third of the Bering Sea’s ice in just over a week. This was the fourth year in a row that the Arctic has seen an extreme heat wave, according to NSDIC.

When the Arctic hit its maximum extent this year, satellites measured it at 448,000 square miles below the historical average from 1981-2010. That’s just over the size of Texas and California combined.

“To see this kind of stuff happening over these past four winters … Arctic ocean heat waves are just weird,” said Serreze, who has been studying sea ice since the 1980s. “I’ve never seen something like that.”

In Alaska’s farthest-north community, Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), there is open ocean not far from the shore. Meanwhile, the town has seen abnormally high snow levels. “I’ve not seen this much snow in a while,” said Herman Ahsoak, a whaling captain there.

Soon, Ahsoak will head out with his crew to start cutting through the ice to reach the water’s edge so they can begin the spring whale hunt. He said reports from other captains is that the ice is young this year—meaning it’s thinner than ice that survives through multiple seasons—but that it has piled up in a way that is favorable to hauling a large whale up. “It’s young ice, but it got pushed into shore pretty good,” he said. “I’ll find out more when I get out there.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sabrina Shankman

Sabrina Shankman is a reporter for InsideClimate News focusing on the Arctic. She joined ICN in the fall of 2013, after helping produce documentaries and interactives for the PBS show “Frontline” since 2010 with 2over10 Media. She is the author of the ICN book “Meltdown: Terror at the Top of the World,” and was named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for that work. Shankman has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.


Source: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23032018/arctic-sea-ice-record-low-maximum-warm-winter-indigenous-coastal-communities-bering-strait-alaska-hunting-whaling-climate-change