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Executive Summary for July 14th

We review the latest Arctic news, including research into more frequent winter warm spells, insights into the Arctic’s mercury pollution, and how Amazon became an important source of staple goods for one Arctic community.

Published on July 14, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Wonky Winters

Increasingly frequent winter storms are helping to destabilize Arctic sea ice, according to a new study. As the CBC reports, unusually warm winter temperatures in the polar region are nothing new, but it has becoming increasingly common, as evident from a review of a half-century of Arctic temperature data.

Even after high temperatures have subsided, sea ice can continue to take a beating after these events have passed. Snowfall can end up insulating ice to prevent it from returning to cold temperatures, and storms can prevent sea ice from refreezing.

Mercury Rising

Scientists have a better understanding of how the Arctic came to be full of mercury. As the Washington Post reports, the region’s mercury pollution has been well known for a long time, but the process of how mercury moves from the air to the ecosystem hasn’t been well understood.

It turns out that Arctic tundra is particularly adept at sucking up airborne mercury – produced by the burning of coal and other industrial activity in faraway places and carried by the winds. It was previously held that mercury reached the landscape through rain and snow – an idea that has now been overturned.

Prime Numbers

Residents of Iqaluit, Nunavut, in Canada’s Arctic live in fear of being cut off from free shipping available via Amazon, reports the CBC. Groceries are notoriously expensive in Nunavut, despite government efforts to subsidize the cost of certain foods. So Iqaluit residents have taken to signing up for Amazon Prime to buy everything from deodorant to bags of flour, diapers and hardware.

As a result, the community has one of the busiest post offices in the country, and the bulk of packages are now sent by Amazon. Amazon dropped free shipping to many Nunavut communities in 2015, but spared Iqaluit.

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