Switzerland wants to join the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a coalition of Arctic states and offers a communication platform to discuss Arctic related matters. The Council has gained more and more importance over the years due to the opening of the Arctic Ocean. States with no borders to the Arctic have the possibility to join the Arctic Council as Permanent Observers and have thus a certain influence on Arctic matters. Among these states are China, India, Singapore, France, the UK and Germany. Switzerland has now officially deposited its application and hopes to join this illustrious council.

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The bigger the better: New plans for hotels in Longyearbyen

In the far north of Europe lies the Svalbard archipelago, embedded between the North Cape and the North Pole. Covering an area of more than 60’000 km2 Svalbard offers a unique opportunity to experience the Arctic in its entirety, from reindeer to polar bear. Every year, it attracts ten thousands of tourists. Tourism has become the second largest branch of Svalbard economy and appropriate infrastructure projects are planned.

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When you are not a gourmet: Reduced sense of taste in penguins

Penguins apparently cannot enjoy or even detect the savory taste of the fish they eat or the sweet taste of fruit. A new analysis of the genetic evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 16 suggests that the flightless, waddling birds have lost three of the five basic tastes over evolutionary time. For them, it appears, food comes in only two flavors: salty and sour.

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Australian fishing vessel rescued from Antarctic sea-ice

On February 7 an Australian fishing vessel, the 63-metre Antarctic Chieftain, carrying 26 people became trapped in Antarctic pack ice some 1,450 kilometres north-east of McMurdo Sound. The vessel was beset, and ice damaged three of its four propellers rendering the ship not manoeuvrable. The New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre was contacted and the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, which was 690 km away, was asked to help the vessel.

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Age doesn’t matter… if you’re a wandering albatross

A new study of the wandering albatrosses breeding on the sub-antarctic island of Bird Island (off South Georgia) reveals that age doesn't matter when foraging. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE last month, shows that even when the birds reach old age, any reduction in muscle function and visual acuity didn't appear to affect their foraging behaviour.

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A new ice age between Greenland and the USA

One of the last active remains of the Cold War era is Thule Air Base, owned by the US Air Force. It is clear that the use of a foreign territory as a military base has aspects for the host country in terms of both security policy as well as in economy. But now, the newly elected premier of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, has used his first official visit in Copenhagen to gain support for a special concern: The effort to get Washington to pay for the use of Thule Air Base

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Antarctic marine microbes airdropped to study ocean acidification

A special kind of air-drop was delivered to Australia’s Antarctic Davis station last month. Antarctic helicopter pilot Bryan Patterson used his aerial fire-fighting skills in the name of science, when he sling loaded 7000 litres of sea water into a holding tank for marine microbe experiments at Davis station. Mr Patterson used a Bambi Bucket, normally used to fight fires during the Australian bushfire season, to fill the holding tank, situated above the experimental facility. The water was then gravity fed to the laboratory – located in a shipping container on the Davis shoreline.

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Household pollutants detected around Antarctic stations

Australian Antarctic stations are rethinking their operational practices after the discovery that common household pollutants are dispersing from one of their bases, Casey station, into the local Antarctic environment. The research published in Environmental Science and Technology and led by Dr Susan Bengtson Nash from Griffith University’s Southern Ocean Persistent Pollutants Program, records the first evidence of the dispersal of these pollutants from local sources – such as furnishings and electronic equipment – in the Australian Antarctic Territory.

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Antarctic ice cores tell 1000-year Australian drought story

The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest accumulation of fresh water in the world. Due to its age it hold substantial and vital information about Earths' climate history, entrapped in little air bubbles in the ice. In a new project, scientists have used a 1000 year Antarctic ice core record to shed light on eastern Australia's long-term drought patterns, with important benefits for water infrastructure planning.

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Winters in Siberian permafrost regions have warmed since millennia

For the first time, researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute have successfully employed a geochemical method used in glacier research to decode climate data from millennia-old permafrost ground ice and reconstruct the development of winter temperatures in Russia’s Lena River Delta. Their conclusions: Over the past 7,000 years, winter temperatures in the Siberian permafrost regions have gradually risen. The researchers claim that this is due to the changing position of the Earth relative to the sun and is amplified by the rising greenhouse-gas emissions since the dawn of industrialisation.

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