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Executive Summary for March 17th

We review how the Arctic’s sea ice is melting due to both natural and man-made forces, how the big security concern raised by Russian military activity in the Arctic may be beneath the ocean and how Norway plans to make a big push for offshore Arctic oil exploration.

Published on March 17, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Arctic’s Thaw Driven by a Mix of Natural and Man-Made Forces

Up to half of the Arctic’s recent and dramatic loss of sea ice could be explained by natural variation, with the rest driven by climate change, according to an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

As Science Daily reports, the bulk of the Arctic’s sea-ice decline is still suspected to be driven by man-made causes. But the Arctic’s warming in recent decades has also been spurred by a “hot spot” over the Canadian Arctic and Greenland that has its roots in changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

If this natural trend stops or reverses in the near future, the Arctic’s sea ice may stop shrinking or even begin to recover, Reuters reports. But researchers still expect an ice-free Arctic Ocean to be an inevitability in the future.

Watching the Northern Fleet

Magnus Nordenman, deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, has argued that Russia’s growing military activity in the Arctic is a concern for the U.S., but a race to build new icebreakers isn’t the solution.

There’s been much hand-wringing recently over how Russia’s icebreaker capabilities dwarf those of the United States.

But Nordenman – in a commentary for Defense News – says the growing sophistication of Russia’s Northern Fleet is the thing to watch. Nordenman suggests what the U.S. really needs are new submarines and new sensor networks to track the movements of Russia’s new, hard-to-detect subs.

Going All-In for Offshore Arctic Oil

Norway is proposing its biggest-ever expansion of oil exploration along its northern continental shelf.

As the Arctic Journal reports, this move is being cheered by businesses and regional lawmakers and being booed by environmentalists.

Conservationists are seeking to block drilling by pulling different legal levers. The expansion also comes at a time when the European Parliament is considering an Arctic strategy at odds with oil drilling in the region.

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