Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kai Lenny's Kite Board vs. Oracle Team USA's AC72

Kai Lenny's $1,500 Kite Board vs ORACLE TEAM USA's $15 million catamaran...
"It's like bringing a knife to a gun fight," said ORACLE TEAM USA grinder Matt Mitchell.
Those were the comments of Jimmy Spithill, the skipper of ORACLE TEAM USA and the defenders of the America's Cup.
The question was whether kite board champion Kai Lenny can outrace the new 72-foot catamaran of ORACLE TEAM USA.
Pink slips were on the line when Lenny put his $1,500 board up against the $15 million boat recently on San Francisco Bay.
On the same course that will host the 34th America's Cup in September, the two sides engaged in a bridge-to-bridge battle between the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge.

Kai Lenny got a significant jump out of the starting gate, launching his kite and harnessing the power of the winds to propel himself at 20 knots across the water (23 mph).
This caught ORACLE TEAM USA off guard at first, before they found their rhythm and cranked it up to 30 knots (34 mph) to blow by the kite board.

Friday, July 19, 2013

New map shows where nature protects U.S. coast

Exposure of the US coastline and coastal population to sea-level rise in 2100 (A2 scenario) and storms.
Warmer colours indicate regions with more exposure to coastal hazards (index >3.36).
The bar graph shows the population living in areas most exposed to hazards (red 1 km2 coastal segments in the map) with protection provided by habitats…

From NationalGeographic

Real estate is all about location, and coastal reefs and wetlands now look like especially attractive neighbors.

Americans looking to buy seaside property would do well to study the first ever nationwide map showing how and where natural habitats like reefs and vegetation best protect coastal residents from rising seas and catastrophic storms like last year's Hurricane Sandy.
(See "Hurricane Sandy Pictures: Floods, Fire, Snow in the Aftermath.")

Shoreline engineering like seawalls can be effective but also expensive, environmentally undesirable, and a detriment to tourism and seaside recreation.
But conserving and restoring nature's own coastal habitats can also help save lives.
Now Stanford University's Katie Arkema and colleagues have provided a national map of where natural habitats do most reduce risk to people and property—and where they may need help.

Coastal habitats including marshes, dunes, seagrass beds, mangrove and other coastal forests, kelp forests, oyster beds, and coral reefs help keep waves and storm surge from flooding and eroding coastal property.
Coral reefs, for example, can reduce the energy of waves that hit shore by 85 percent.

Some two-thirds of the U.S. coast is currently protected by one or more of these helpful habitats, according to the study.
Coral reefs seen during spring low tides at Sombrero Key Lighthouse.
Photograph by Mike Theiss, National Geographic

Mapping a "Hazard Index"

Arkema and colleagues mapped coastal habitats to create a "hazard index" that evaluated every square kilometer of the U.S. coastline under five different scenarios of sea-level rise.
The team then added the coast's human geography, illustrating where people and property stood in harm's way with demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau and property values developed, in part, from a relationship with the online real-estate service Zillow.
(See coastline pictures.)
"It's not just about whether habitats are capable of providing coastal protection," said Arkema, a marine ecologist with Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
"It's also where they matter for people and for property," she said.
"We really wanted to figure out where habitats are reducing exposure and also where those locations overlap with coastal property values and human populations that need to be protected."

When the team modeled U.S. coastlines with these natural protections removed the results were dire, suggesting that the loss of such habitats would double the stretches of coastline now highly exposed to floods and storms and expose an additional 1.4 million Americans to such threats.
"That really surprised me," Arkema said.
"It does make sense. We know for example that there are a lot of people in Florida, and that Florida gets hit with a lot of hurricanes, but when I saw that the totals actually doubled I was really surprised."

Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, said the study was the first of its type to be really proactive.
"With other studies a disaster comes along, say a tsunami, and afterward people collect information and say, 'Here where they left the mangroves intact, people didn't seem to suffer as much.'
That's good science but it's after the fact.
"This study takes us in a direction of saying let's be proactive," he continued.
"Let's not wait for a storm to happen. Where does natural habitat offer some natural risk reduction before the storm happens?"

 Natural protection against rising seas, or development site in waiting?

Which states need mother nature the most?

The study shows that some areas of the U.S. receive much more natural protection than others. Under all scenarios of sea-level rise and storms the East Coast and Gulf Coasts proved generally more vulnerable than the West Coast.
"The East Coast and Gulf Coast, in general, are lower-lying and sea level rise will impact those coasts more," Arkema said.

"Many of the shorelines aren't as hard, there are more muddy or sandy areas.
Of course California has many sandy beaches but much of the West Coast tends to be higher elevation, harder shoreline—think of places like Big Sur for example."
(Related: "Sea Levels Rising Fast on U.S. East Coast.")

The results also break down state by state.
Coastal habitats currently protect the most coastline in Florida, North Carolina, and Alaska.
But when the population demographics are taken into account, they protect the most people and property in New York, California, and Florida.
(Related: "New York's Sea-Level Plan: Will it Play in Miami?")

Risks and consequences vary dramatically right down to the local level.
In Jefferson County, Florida, the value of property protected by coastal habitat was $0 because there is no residential development within 0.6 mile (a kilometer) of the shoreline.
(Inland homes do benefit from local wetlands and forests but weren't included in the study figures, Arkema said.)

But in Suffolk and Kings Counties, New York, the figure tops $20 billion.
That surprised Arkema, and not because New York property values were so high.
"Many people would know those areas are highly developed," she explained, "but it's surprising that they are still surrounded by ecosystems, wetlands, and forests that are relatively intact."
And dollars and cents don't always tell the whole story, Arkema cautioned.
In some instances poor and socially vulnerable people stand to bear the brunt of the disaster, representing a high human cost even with lower economic consequences.

The model study covered the entire U.S. coast, and so by necessity used data on a national scale that sometimes lacked detailed local information on exact habitat locations and conditions. "Where The Nature Conservancy is involved is the next step," said Kareiva.
"We can take this study and go to Florida or the Gulf of Mexico, North Carolina, and New York and say these are the areas where natural habitat can really reduce risk," he said. "Now we have to actually map the habitat that's there and be more precise to know exactly where it is."

Putting this into practice, The Nature Conservancy is using this same model on a localized scale in the Gulf of Mexico, combined with field experiments, to evaluate where to restore oyster reefs, how to design them, and what sizes to make them, Kareiva explained.
"FEMA spends half a billion dollars a year on risk mitigation for floods, in response to local communities. We're working with local communities to say hey all this money doesn't need to go into concrete," he added.

"Certainly we're always going to need levees but some of this money could be going into habitat protection and that turns out to also be good for fisheries, recreation, and lots of other areas."

Insurers take note, but habitat help is hard to value

Communities around the world face similar challenges, and enjoy similar opportunities for natural protection.

The Nature Conservancy, the German Alliance for Development Works, and the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) led the World Risk Report, which focused on the role of the environment in reducing risk of natural disasters, and how risks rise with environmental degradation.

The report found that the 15 nations most at risk around the world, from #1 Vanuatu to #15 Fiji, are all coastal, tropical locales where reefs and mangrove habitats are critically important for protection. (Related: "Caribbean Coral Reefs Mostly Dead, IUCN Says.")

With so much already at stake, and coastal development continuing apace, the insurance industry is also taking note of the role played by natural habitats.

A 2011 insurance industry report, backed by 16 Caribbean governments, recommended that restoring reefs and mangroves are among the most cost effective ways to protect people and property from natural disasters in the region.
A study sponsored by America's Energy Coast, America's Wetlands Foundation, and power producers Entergy Corporation looks at similar issues along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Swiss Re—a reinsurer, or backup insurer for insurance companies—contributed to both of these reports.
"What we've tried to do with our Economics of Climate Adaptation work is analyze the value of the natural infrastructure from the point of view of how it could reduce the expected losses from a major weather event," said Mark Way, Head of Sustainability Americas at Swiss Re.
"On the Gulf Coast, for example, we looked at what it would cost to do wetlands restoration and what the possible benefits would be," he said.

But Way said that this type of financial analysis remains difficult at the present time.
"It's hard to have a comprehensive evaluation of the true benefits of natural capital in the sense of the auxiliary benefits you get," he said.
"You can create buffers against the weather, but at the same time you benefit leisure activities, fisheries, the local environment. We haven't really quantified those yet."

Way's colleague at Swiss Re, Andy Castaldi, added that while the benefits of natural-habitat protection are real to most of the insurance industry, analysis of them is not yet greatly impacting the bottom line.
"To most of the market I think it's not yet tangible because no one is helping them to understand and assess habitat improvements," said Castaldi, who is head of Swiss Re's Catastrophe Perils, Americas division.
"So right now, while I think most every insurance company would support protecting a barrier island or mangrove forest, at this time there is no way for them to factor this benefit into their underwriting judgment. No one has quantified it for them on the entire coastline basis."

But if the total costs and benefits involved are hard to quantify, protection of the key coastal habitat areas in the study will not only keep people safe but ultimately save money as well, study leader Katie Arkema stressed.
"It's going to cost us a lot more to try to engineer solutions like seawalls, or to try to restore habitats once we've lost them," she said.
"It doesn't take as much investment to conserve them while we've got them. So our research suggests, let's retain them—especially where we've got a lot of people. We can be creative, and mix these natural protections with hard engineering as well, but we certainly don't want to lose the protection we're receiving from the ecosystems we have intact."

Links :
  • Grist :  Here’s an easy way to protect coastal communities from rising seas and storms

Thursday, July 18, 2013

NZ Linz update in the Marine GeoGarage

5 charts have been updated in the Marine GeoGarage
(Linz June update published July 3 2013

  • NZ5114 Doubtless Bay: Whangaroa Harbour 
  • NZ5121 Cavalli passage 
  • NZ5314 Mercury Islands
  • NZ7654 Chalky and Preservation Inlets 
  • NZ9558 Rarotonga 
Today NZ Linz charts (178 charts / 340 including sub-charts) are displayed in the Marine GeoGarage.

Note :  LINZ produces official nautical charts to aid safe navigation in New Zealand waters and certain areas of Antarctica and the South-West Pacific.

Using charts safely involves keeping them up-to-date using Notices to Mariners
Reporting a Hazard to Navigation - H Note :
Mariners are requested to advise the New Zealand Hydrographic Authority at LINZ of the discovery of new or suspected dangers to navigation, or shortcomings in charts or publications. 

Nautical charts video : LINZ shows how nautical charts are made
Nautical cartographer Jennifer Ryan (Manager Chart Production at Land Information New Zealand) shows how nautical charts are made.
Find out how Lyttelton Port kept operating after the Canterbury earthquakes.
Learn about the navigational aids that help mariners navigate and what a nautical chart shows.

Australia admits barrier reef conditions are poor

This is a satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia colllected on April 22, 2013.
DigitalGlobe / Getty Image

From Discovery

Australia admitted conditions at the Great Barrier Reef are "poor" as it battles UNESCO threats to downgrade its heritage status over concerns about pollution and development.
Environment Minister Mark Butler released a report card showing that the reef's health had slumped since 2009 due to cyclones and floods, despite progress on reducing agricultural runoff.

Life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef: Photos

"Extreme weather events significantly impacted the overall condition of the marine environment which declined from moderate to poor overall,' the report said.

It said key reef ecosystems were showing "declining trends in condition due to continuing poor water quality, cumulative impacts of climate change and increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events".

Despite reductions in nitrogen (seven percent), pesticides (15 percent), sediment (six percent) and pollutants key to outbreaks of devastating crown-of-thorns starfish (13 percent), the report said the reef was in trouble.

Major flooding in 2010-2011 followed by powerful cyclone Yasi had badly damaged the world's largest coral reef, degrading water quality and depleting overall cover by 15 percent.
"Full recovery will take decades," the report said.

 >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

Australia's Great Barrier Reef On Watch: Analysis

Conservationists said the report was alarming and showed the need for far greater action from the government, with the current plan and targets "unlikely to save our reef".
"The outlook for the reef is not good but the situation isn't hopeless, solutions do exist," said WWF's Nick Heath.
"We just need more investment, more targeted action in the most dangerous pollution hotspots."

While reductions had been achieved, Heath said they were far short of 2009 targets, particularly pollutants key to starfish outbreaks, which fell by 13 percent instead of 50 percent -- a goal now pushed back to 2018.
"We are likely to need a nitrogen pollution reduction target of up to 80 percent if we are to arrest crown-of-thorns outbreaks," he said.

A major longitudinal study of the reef's health, published last year, revealed that coral cover had more than halved due to storms, predatory starfish outbreaks and bleaching linked to climate change over the past 27 years.
Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage, accounting for 48 percent, with the coral-feeding starfish linked to 42 percent, according to the study.

UNESCO has threatened to downgrade the reef's world heritage status to declare it at-risk in 2014 without significant action on rampant coastal and resources development seen as a threat to its survival.
Scientists who advised the government on the reef's health for the report card said declining water quality associated with agricultural and other runoff was a "major cause of the current poor state".
The team, led by James Cook University's Jon Brodie, said intense floods and cyclones had also "severely impacted marine water quality and Great Barrier Reef ecosystems".
"Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme weather events," it said.

 UNESCO considering adding Great Barrier Reef to list of endangered sites

How Global Warming Will Change Your Life

Butler unveiled lofty targets for improving water quality over the next five years, aiming for at least a 50 percent reduction on 2009 levels of nitrogen pollutants linked to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, 20 percent for sediment runoff and 60 percent for pesticides.
"In spite of solid improvement, data tells us that poor water quality is continuing to have a detrimental effect on reef health," Butler said.
"To secure the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef it is critical that we build on the momentum of the previous reef plan with a focus on improving water quality and land management practices through ambitious but achievable targets.

Links :
  • TheGuardian : Great Barrier Reef's condition declined from moderate to poor in 2011

Google Maps wipes out Scottish island of Jura

 The beautiful Scottish island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984,
has sunk without trace into the Atlantic Ocean... at least according to Google.
The map error (probably an inside-out poly issue) was first noticed on July 4,
but two weeks later on Google have yet to rectify the glitch.

but it was still visible in the satellite view.

The GeoGarage's sources in Jura assure us that the island is still standing.
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

From DailyMail 
  • Isle of Jura is located off the west coast of the Scottish Kintyre Peninsula.
  • When users search for the isle an outline appears where the land should be
  • Google has apologised and is working to fix the fault
Google has had to apologise for accidentally wiping a small Scottish island from its Maps service after the lastest update.
The Isle of Jura should be shown off the west coast of the Scottish Kintyre Peninsula yet when users search for island on Google Maps a red outline appears where the land should be.
Google said it was 'so sorry' for the mistake and added its engineers are 'bevearing away' to fix the flaw.
BBC News was the first site to notice that the mass of land had vanished.
It is visible on Google Earth and on the Satellite view of Google Maps, yet when the page is switched to Maps view, the island disappears.

Jura is part of Scotland's Inner Hebrides archipelago and is situated in between Islay and the Kintyre Peninsula off the west coast of the UK country.
It only has around 200 residents that live in an area of approximately 140 square miles.
The island is renowned for its whisky and its deer, which outnumber the people 25 to one.
It is only accessible by a small ferry that stops running at 18.30, small boats from Colonsay to Loch Tarbert or by water taxi.

Jura's single malt scotch whisky distillery, which once employed a quarter of the island's male population, somehow spotted a marketing opportunity in the peculiar situation, promising a free bottle of whisky to the Twitter user who could put an 'X' closest to the distillery's location.
(Google Maps geolocalization)

A Google spokesman told the BBC: 
'We are sorry about that. We're aware of the problem, and our engineers are beavering away to fix it.
We hope to have the map of Jura back to normal as soon as possible.'

Google Maps has suffered similar mishaps before :
  • in April 2009, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, two French islands off the coast of Newfoundland, were missing their land data in Google Maps — the roads and landmarks were there, but the outlines of the islands were not (see Google Maps forum)
  • in September 2010, the city of Sunrise in Florida vanished from the map while users were redirected to Sarasota (see CNN
  • in November 2010, Google Nicaraguan map error threatens to escalate into regional dispute (see Guardian / OgleEarth)
  • and in 2011, Google Maps placed the harbour in Emden, Germany, under Dutch sovereignty. This border dispute is said to date back to the 15th Century. According to the Dutch, the harbor lies between the northern Netherlands and Germany, but Germans claim the entire estuary as their territory. (see GeoGarage blog)
  • Late last year, a group of Australian geologists proved that a South Pacific Island — the mythical “Sandy Island” — does not exist despite appearing on both Google Maps and Google Earth. (see GeoGarage blog)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Large underwater cliff discovered off Queensland Australia

Coral Sea cliff
"It's like a road cutting, when you drive through you can see the layers of the rock, but it's like a giant version of that,"
"We're very keen to go and have a look at it and study it."
Dr Beaman said.

From SydneyUniversity

An underwater cliff recently discovered in the Coral Sea will help shed light on the ancient past, and could also prove to be a hotspot of marine life diversity.

The steep, 800-metre cliff is on the western edge of the Queensland Plateau, to the northeast of Cooktown.

The cliff is located about 130km northeast of Cooktown on Cape York and runs 30km along the Queensland Plateau - a large submarine plateau off the eastern side of the state.
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

It was found during a collaborative expedition by German marine scientists and Australian researchers from James Cook University and the University of Sydney.
During June and July, working on one of Germany’s largest research vessels, the RV Sonne, scientists have been mapping the seafloor of the northern Coral Sea – from Papua New Guinea, south along the deep Great Barrier Reef to Townsville, and then east into New Caledonian waters.

“Using a deep-water, multibeam swath echosounder, we were able to detect a steep cliff in an area where we would usually expect to find a gradually sloping seafloor,” said Dr Robin Beaman, from JCU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
“The top of the undersea cliff lies in about 1800 metres of water and drops nearly vertically into the Queensland Trough at 2600 metres.”

Canyons site east of Cairns

The cliff could record the layers of coral growth that formed on the Queensland Plateau before subsiding to its present depth over the past several million years.

“Elsewhere in the world, such steep cliffs are also the habitats for prolific marine life, so this discovery will be used to plan a future expedition to sample the seafloor,” Dr Beaman said.

The RV Sonne also obtained sediment cores from submarine canyons lying in the deep Great Barrier Reef to the east of Cairns.
These canyons line the edge of northeastern Australia’s continental margin and are known to be the conduits of sediment draining off the reef into the Queensland Trough.

“We targeted one canyon in particular because it was connected to an ancient river channel on the Great Barrier Reef shelf,” said Dr Jody Webster, from the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney.
“During times of lower sea-levels, such as during the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, these rivers would have drained at a coastline much further east than now, and likely dumped river sediments directly into connecting canyons.

--> “The sediments recovered from this canyon, and another canyon nearby, will help us to understand the environmental responses of the Great Barrier Reef during changing sea-levels, and the role of submarine canyons in recording those responses,” said Dr Webster.
“Examining sediment cores is much like looking at tree rings to understand the changes to the environment during the life of a tree – they will reveal both the type and timing of sediment deposited from the Great Barrier Reef.
“Analysing these sediments will reveal a great deal about the effects of climate change on the reef,” Dr Webster said.

These new canyon cores and seafloor maps (covering 13,800 square kilometres to date) will contribute to ongoing marine research being conducted on the deep Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea by JCU and the University of Sydney.

“The data from this collaborative expedition are timely, given the area’s recent inclusion in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve,” Dr Beaman said.
“It shows there is still much to discover about the deep environments of the Coral Sea.”

Links :
  • Sydney Univ : Underwater landslides discovered off the Great Barrier Reef

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Decision due on massive Antarctic marine sanctuaries

The proposal, backed by the European Union, covers seven coastal zones in East Antarctica.
  • CCAMLR has established just one Marine Protected Area in the Antarctic so far.
  • They have designated 11 priority areas in the Southern Ocean from which most MPAs will be created.
  • Governments have set a goal of extending protected areas to ten percent of the world's oceans
From BBC

Negotiators meeting in Germany are set to decide on the establishment of the world's biggest marine reserves in Antarctica.

Scientists are hoping the plans for protected areas in the Ross Sea and in Eastern Antarctica will be supported.
But a previous attempt failed to get the necessary backing of all 25 members involved.
And there are worries that countries including Russia could again scupper the proposal.

 The plan is aimed to strike a balance between conservation and sustainable fishing.
Picture: John B. Weller

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is made up of countries with an interest in the Southern Ocean, and includes Australia, the US, the UK, China and Russia among its members.
Any decisions taken require consensus among all parties.

 >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

This meeting in Bremerhaven has been called to deal specifically with proposals for the establishment of reserves that would ban fishing and protect species including seals and penguins.
If successful the plans would more than double the area of the world's oceans that are protected.

Protecting penguins

The idea of creating marine protected areas has been around for several years - but when it came to a decision late last October, several countries including Russia, the Ukraine and China had reservations and the meeting ran out of time.

 Map of the New Zealand-United States proposal

The US and New Zealand are again backing a proposal to create a marine protected zone in the Ross Sea with a total area of 2.3m sq km, making it the biggest in the world.

 >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

According to Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean campaign, this would have a major benefits for a range of species.
"While it is called the Ross Sea, a portion of it is frozen solid 365 a year and provides a critical habitat for hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish and invertebrates including 38% of the world's Adelie penguins and 26% of the world's Emperor penguins," she said.
Another proposal from Australia, France and the European Union would create protected areas in East Antarctica covering around 1.63m sq km

Australia and France have developed a plan to protect 1.9 million square kilometres of East Antarctica as new marine parks.
Picture: John B. Weller

Australia's minister for environment, Mark Butler MP, said the East Antarctic proposal would be a significant undertaking but would be about more than just protecting species.
"The MPA also includes scientific reference areas where we can measure long term changes and natural variability - essential pieces of information to ensure the conservation of key features and the sustainability of fishing in the region," he said.

Fishing is a big sticking point with species like krill and patagonian toothfish proving highly lucrative for boats from a range of countries, including South Korea, Norway and Japan.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established by international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.
This was in response to increasing commercial interest in Antarctic krill resources, a keystone component of the Antarctic ecosystem. CCAMLR is an international commission with 25 Members, and a further 10 countries have acceded to the Convention.
Based on the best available scientific information, the Commission agrees a set of conservation measures that determine the use of marine living resources in the Antarctic.

In for the krill

The tiny shrimp like Antarctic krill are a key element of the ecosystem, as they are part of the diet of whales, penguins, seals and sea birds.
However demand for krill has risen sharply in recent years thanks to growing interest in Omega-3 dietary supplements.

In the months since the last meeting in Tasmania, diplomats have been working hard to stress the scientific case for ending fishing in these regions of Antarctica.
"There were a number of issues raised by countries including China, Russia and the Ukraine, they related to issues such as access to fishing and there were questions about the science," Bob Zuur, from campaigners WWF.
"The proponents have heard those concerns and have prepared detailed responses - we expect that those issues have now been addressed."
Environmentalists are worried that there may be attempts at a compromise, with a proposal from Norway for what's termed a "sunset clause".

 The "Giant Tabular Iceberg" floats in Antarctica's Ross Sea in December 2011.

Supported by Russia and Japan it would mean the protected areas in the East Antarctic would be reviewed in 2064 and the Ross Sea in 2043.
Campaigners say that this is an unusual idea, given that protected areas on land or in the seas are usually designated in perpetuity.

If the meeting doesn't come to a decision or it is likely that unanimity can't be achieved, it is possible that the meeting will refer the issue forward to CCAMLR's annual gathering towards the end of this year.

Links :
  • TheGuardian : Antarctic marine reserves plan 'threatened by Russian fishing interests'

Monday, July 15, 2013

Norway mulls broadband Internet coverage in Arctic as maritime activity grows

In this July 21, 2011 file photo, an iceberg floats in the sea near Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island, Greenland.
Norway is looking into providing high-speed Internet in one of the few places on Earth where it’s not available: the Arctic.
Demand for high-speed Internet in the Arctic is expected to grow as shipping, fishing and oil companies move north amid warming temperatures and melting ice.
Brennan Linsley, File/Associated Press

From WashingtonPost

Norway may provide high-speed Internet in one of the few places on Earth where it’s not available: the Arctic.
The Norwegian Space Center has teamed up with Telenor Satellite Broadcasting to assess the feasibility of a new satellite system covering northern areas outside the reach of current geostationary communications satellites.
Space center director Bo Andersen on Thursday told The Associated Press the system could be in place in the early 2020s if it gets the necessary funding from private and public sources.
The estimated cost is 2 billion-4 billion kroner ($330 million-$650 million).

Demand for high-speed Internet in the Arctic is expected to grow as shipping, fishing and oil companies move north amid warming temperatures and melting ice.
Last year, summer sea ice cover in the Arctic fell to the lowest extent on record.
 Arctic sea ice dwindled to its lowest levels on record in 2012

Geostationary satellites, which are in orbit over the equator, provide coverage up to 75 degrees north, Andersen said.
But above that latitude, the signals become too weak, and the only option is another satellite network that can only handle voice and limited data service.
“We see very clearly that there is an increasing need for broadband in the high Arctic,” Andersen said.

Ola Anders Skauby, a spokesman for Norwegian energy company Statoil, said “new satellite solutions would be beneficial” as the offshore industry moves north in search of oil and gas.
“Our plans for the Arctic depend on a number of issues: safe operations, logistics, weather conditions and more,” he said.
“Broadband coverage is part of this picture and for operations in some regions further north than where current operations are taking place development of new solutions for high-capacity broadband ... will be needed.”

Canada’s space agency has been studying a similar system.
Spokeswoman Melanie Beauchesne said the agency has completed feasibility studies but is still talking with potential public and private partners in Canada and abroad “to determine their level of interest and potential collaboration scenario to bring about the future realization of this mission.”