Arctic temperatures are rising and sea-ice is diminishing, yielding new challenges for all Arctic stakeholders. Distinguished panel speakers from a range of backgrounds spoke at the congressional briefing, “Technology Solutions in an Opening Arctic,” that was hosted by the Marine Technology Society, the House Oceans Caucus, and the Congressional Arctic Working Group. The discussions focused on recent scientific advancements in the Arctic, burgeoning technologies, and using science and technology to effectively plan for the future.
Dr. Kelly Falkner (Director, Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation (NSF)) reported that this winter had the lowest sea-ice extent since at least 1979, and predictions for the upcoming summer indicate especially thin sea-ice. In under a decade, we may even see a summer with an ice-free (less than 10% sea-ice covered) Arctic. An exhaustive study of present Arctic conditions is urgently needed to prepare for the future, and NSF is actively funding research in ice mass balance using buoys, gliders, floats, and underwater autonomous vehicles.
RADM Jonathan White (Ret., President and CEO, Consortium for Ocean Leadership) described the numerous challenges the nations will face due to this diminishing Arctic sea ice, particularly environmental issues, safety, and national security concerns. According to RADM White, the required solutions for Artic problems must involve better weather forecasting, improved satellite communications, and exhaustive charting of the Arctic basin. He believes “Science and technology will lead us to a safe and successful opening of the Arctic.”
Mr. David Mottarella (Senior Maritime Manager, Harris Corp.) described beneficial new technologies, specifically a suite of polar-orbiting satellites due to launch this summer and will be available for use by the end of next year. The new satellites will have six distinct orbital paths with ten units on each path. They will provide nearly 100 percent coverage over this critical zone and can relay data from fishing vessels or commercial cruises to anywhere on the globe in nearly real time. New satellite cover provides expanded capabilities for scientific instruments, including Wave Gliders, which were discussed by Mr. Graham Hine (Liquid Robotics). Wave Gliders have unique capabilities for measuring the chemical and physical properties of surface and shallow Arctic waters. State-of-the-art technologies have a number of benefits including, cheaper scientific research, better data coverage, and, as Dr. Falkner highlighted, drone usage is minimally invasive to Arctic species.
While the future of Arctic security and availability of resources are hazy, scientific researchers and exciting new technologies are ready to tackle the forthcoming challenges.
See a video of the Arctic Briefing here: http://www.maritimetv.com/Events/MarineTechnologySociety_160425/TabId/1317/VideoId/2307/Technology-Solutions-In-An-Opening-Arctic.aspx