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Executive Summary for December 16th

We review the latest Arctic news, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual report card for the region, Donald Trump’s plans to name ExxonMobil’s CEO as his new top diplomat and the opening of Russia’s northernmost military base.

Published on Dec. 16, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Arctic Fails Latest Climate Report Card

The fast-warming Arctic continued to break records for air temperatures, shrinking sea ice and disappearing snow cover, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 11th annual Arctic report card, released on Tuesday.

The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, the peer-reviewed report found. Among the most concerning observations is how this warming is now extending into the winter months. That’s bad news for the Arctic’s dwindling sea ice, which no longer has as much opportunity to regrow.

While it’s possible that Arctic sea ice could recover if temperatures turn around, experts told the Arctic Journal that’s not likely to happen. One of many worries from all this, the Washington Post reports, is that cold air escaping the Arctic may be weakening the jet stream and cause increasingly weird weather elsewhere in the world.

Tillerson’s Nomination Could ‘Make the Russian Arctic Great Again’

Donald Trump’s plans to name Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, as his next secretary of state should have some clear ramifications for the Arctic, explains Mia Bennett, a research fellow in the Department of Geography at UCLA.

In 2011, ExxonMobil and Russia’s largest state-owned oil company agreed to cooperate on many projects, including plans to explore for oil in the Kara Sea in Russia’s Arctic. ExxonMobil was forced to pull out by U.S. sanctions in 2014. As Bennett notes, resuming this work could see the company profit handsomely.

Unlike some other Trump nominees, Tillerson doesn’t dispute the existence of climate change, although he does describe it as “an engineering problem” that could be managed through technological innovations. He also maintains that the world’s insatiable hunger for oil means that Arctic deposits will have to be exploited eventually.

Tillerson’s nomination has been greeted with cheers in Russia, where the Barents Observer reports that a leading foreign policy representative has enthused, “Tillerson will make the Russian Arctic great again.” Greenland’s minister of economic development also had warm words about the nomination, reports Nunatsiaq News.

Russia Opens Its Northernmost Military Base

Russia has declared its new Arctic naval base open for operation, the Barents Observer reports.

Located at the 75th parallel in the remote New Siberian Islands, it is Russia’s northernmost military installation. The base, which has been two years in the making, is reported to be big enough to comfortably house 250 people. Several other new Russian Arctic bases are in the works.

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