Marine Science Symposium – LIVEBLOG – Wednesday

 A brief introduction to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium by liveblogger Steve Heimel, who will be bringing Alaska Public Media live coverage through Thursday, Jan. 28.

5 p.m.  — International shippers have changed the route they take through the Aleutian Islands to avoid valuable wildlife habitat areas.

The International Maritime Organization implemented the new routes on the first of the year and for now they are voluntary, but Doug Burn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlfe Service says indications are that the shippers began trying out the new routes even before they went into effect.

The great circle routes continue to go through Unimak Pass, but when they go back through the Aleutian Chain  they steer farther north of the islands than they used to.

Burn speculates that the companies that insure the shippers see the new routes as lessening liability by reducing the risk that a vessel will go aground and spill.

3:30 p.m. — Mark Brzezinski, the White House’s point man for the Arctic, told participants at the Marine Science Symposium this afternoon that they’re in a growth industry.

“This is the year of the Arctic scientist,” the executive director of the President’s year-old steering committee for the Arctic said, pointing to a “coming crisis of the global condition” due to climate change that “does not stay in the Arctic.”

Brzezinski said he’s the guy who made the arrangements for Obama’s trip to Alaska, and he said he is tracking 40 specific promises and commitments the President made while he was here.  He said each of those promises has a point person in charge of following up.

Brzezinski had been scheduled to give the symposium’s opening speech, but his travel was delayed by a blizzard on the East Coast. He arrived Monday, and he said the first thing he did was have dinner with Julie Kitka, head of the Alaska Federation of Natives. Consultation with local communities remains a big priority for the White House, he said.

2:45 p.m. – A Massachusetts oceanographer has identified a hitherto unknown current flowing into the Arctic Ocean through the Chukchi Sea. Dr. Robert Pickart of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute found the current. Here’s Johanna Eurich speaking with Robert Pickart:

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2:30 p.m. – Cold Waters in the north are being by ocean acidification. Dr. Jessica Cross of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the Marine Science Symposium that what they call “low saturation states” are more frequent in the Chukchi Sean than the Being Sea, and are the most frequent in the Beaufort Sea.  The data also show layers of acidic water extend deeper. The most surprising thing they found is that during part of the year the Arctic Ocean is releasing carbon back into the atmosphere through the ice. Here’s Johanna Eurich speaking with Jessica Cross:

11:00 a.m. — A lot of effort is being put into the search for clues surrounding Alaska’s king salmon declines. A University of Washington group looked for correlations between environmental factors and years of poor returns.  Late breakup was identified as related, and  there are indications of another correlating factor.  The nature of statistical analysis was such that this factor could not be identified, though it may be in the future.

A NOAA study is looking into what the young chinook eat while they are in the comparatively freshwater in the rivers, and in the ocean at the mouths of the Yukon River streams.

10:00 a.m. — The flooding computer models show the potential for large impacts from storm surges over large areas of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, which on average is just meters above sea level. The UAA model includes type of vegetation, and in the future it is increasingly likely that more saltwater will be turning large freshwater areas brackish, which would likely mean changes in the plants that vast numbers of migratory birds use as habitat in the summer. UAA’s Jon Allen says the information could help managers target areas for protection and where impacted species might move to or be relocated to.

7:45 a.m. – Signs are that it will be a technology morning at the Marine Science Symposium.  Two different teams, one at UAA and the other at Notre Dame, will present computer models for forecasting what will be happening on the Yukon-Kuskokwim flats as sea level rises and storm surges intensify with climate warming.

We’ll also see what’s called a “four dimensional” depiction of the ocean currents in a part of the Bering Sea, and get an update on a new type of drone that sails on the ocean surface, collecting data over a lot of miles without having to be limited by fuel considerations.

sheimel (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8454 | About Steve

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