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.”


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

What is The Crop Trust?

By editor of The International Reporter


The most important bank in the world received a huge deposit of 50,000 last week. Not 50,000 dollars; 50,000 seed samples. The most important bank in the world is, of course, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a repository of the planet’s genetic legacy dug into the permafrost in the side of a sandstone mountain on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole

The seed vault’s administrator, The Crop Trust, describes the vault as “a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time—and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters,” and boasts that it “represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity.”

Informally known as the “Doomsday Seed Vault” the idea is that the permafrost of a remote North Atlantic archipelago is a safe place to store copies of the most important seed varieties on the planet, including some of the world’s most important staple crops like potato, rice, wheat, lentil and chickpea.

The latest deposit of 50,000 seed samples come from Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Netherlands, the U.S, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus and the U.K. and include 15,000 samples that were withdrawn from the bank in 2015 and returned by researchers who had lost access to their own gene bank in Syria during the ongoing terrorist insurgency.

But here’s the real question that you don’t see addressed in any of the fake news coverage of this recent deposit in the establishment press: What “natural or man-made disasters” does The Crop Trust envision wiping out the genetic heritage of the earth, exactly, and who is “The Crop Trust” anyway?

Well, the second part of that question is easy enough to answer.

As researcher William Engdahl noted in his article on the vault a decade ago:

The first notable point is who is sponsoring the doomsday seed vault. Here joining the Norwegians are, as noted, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the US agribusiness giant DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of the world’s largest owners of patented genetically-modified (GMO) plant seeds and related agrichemicals; Syngenta, the Swiss-based major GMO seed and agrichemicals company through its Syngenta Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation, the private group who created the “gene revolution” with over $100 million of seed money since the 1970’s; CGIAR, the global network created by the Rockefeller Foundation to promote its ideal of genetic purity through agriculture change.

And as I wrote in these pages in 2015:

So who is the “Global Crop Diversity Trust” which oversees the project? Describing itself as an “established independent organization under international law,” the Trust “was founded in 2004 in Rome, Italy, by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International on behalf of the CGIAR international agricultural research consortium. The Crop Trust concluded a Headquarters Agreement with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany in December 2012 and transferred its headquarters to its permanent location in Bonn in 2013.” The GCDT was chaired until 2012 by Margaret Catley-Carlson, a former President of (you guessed it) the J.D. Rockefeller III-founded Population Council (aka American Eugenics Society). No matter where you turn in this field, you always end up back at the doorstep of the same elite eugenics-obsessed families and the corporate oligopoly they helped to bring into existence.

Surprise, surprise. And given that it is the very same eugenics-obsessed families and foundations behind the GMO revolution that are behind this seed vault, do we really have to puzzle over why they are so concerned about the possibility of an ecological disaster that could wipe out all of the heirloom, non-GMO seed strains on the planet? The question, framed properly, answers itself.

So the good news is that another 50,000 seed samples will be left for whoever survives the coming biological disaster. The bad news is that the real founders and funders of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault probably aren’t going to be saving any life rafts for you.



Nine of the 10 Biggest Power Plants in the World are Hydro-power

By Editors of Power Engineering

Nine out of the 10 biggest power-generating facilities in the world are based on hydroelectric power, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced.

Additionally, four out of the group are based in China, with all four beginning operations in the last 13 years.

The world’s largest dam, Three Gorges, taps into the Yangtze River and has a capacity of 22.5 GW. Hydroelectric power is the second-largest source of electricity behind coal, with 20 percent of the country’s total generation in 2015.

Three of the biggest are based in South America, including the second-largest power plant in the world. Brazil’s Itaipu Dam on the Parana River has a capacity of 14GW. In 2015, it ranked first in the world in generation with 89.5 billion kWh, compared to Three Gorges’ output of 87 billion kWh.

The sole non-hydroelectric plant in the list is Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, a nuclear plant and the sixth-largest in the world. However, it was shut down along with most Japanese nuclear plants after the Fukushima accident in 2011 and has yet to restart.

The Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington is the seventh-largest in the world with a capacity of 6.8 GW. It was also the largest power plant in the world from 1949 through 1960, and retook the title after an expansion from 1979 through 1986.



Historic Decision: First Australian State to Ban Fracking for Onshore Gas The State of Victoria Bans Fracking

“The Greens are calling on [New South Wales premier] Mike Baird to end the uncertainty for communities by following Victoria’s lead and banning coal seam gas and fracking permanently and setting a course towards a renewable energy future,” Greens NSW Resources and Energy Spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said.

A ban also makes economic sense, principal advisor at The Australia Institute Mark Ogge told The Guardian, arguing that the creation of gas-related jobs means even more agricultural jobs are lost.

Banning fracking “is sound economic and energy policy,” he said.

“Whatever benefits there are [to Australia’s energy industry], have gone almost entirely to the overseas owners of global oil and gas companies licensed to export Australian gas, largely at the expense of Australian businesses and jobs.”