Arctic Technology Evaluation

How would we respond to an oil spill in the Arctic?

As vessel traffic and energy exploration continues to increase in the Arctic, so does the likelihood of oil spills and other incidents. In August 2014, NOAA partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center on an Arctic Technology Evaluation to demonstrate and evaluate oil spill tools, technologies, and techniques to respond to future incidents in this remote region. To do this, the team journeyed to the icy Arctic north of Alaska on board the USCG Cutter Healy, a powerful icebreaker.

Part of NOAA's role in the exercise was to test the Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®), a stand-alone computer model for use in remote locations. ERMA is a web-based GIS tool that assists both emergency responders and environmental resource managers in dealing with incidents that may harm the environment. NOAA also used its unmanned aircraft system, the Puma, as one method to survey, identify, and monitor simulated oil on and around ice floes from above.

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Adventures in Developing Tools for Oil Spill Response in the Arctic

The Arctic Ocean, sea ice, climate change, polar bears—each evokes a vivid image in the mind. Now what is the most vivid image that comes to mind as you read the word “interoperability”? It might be the backs of your now-drooping eyelids, but framed in the context of oil spill response, “interoperability” couldn’t be more important.

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Overcoming the Biggest Hurdle During an Oil Spill in the Arctic: Logistics

August in the Arctic can mean balmy weather and sunny skies or, fifteen minutes later, relentless freezing rain and wind blowing off ice floes, chilling you to the core. If you were headed to an oil spill there, your suitcase might be carrying a dry suit, down parka, wool sweaters and socks, your heaviest winter hat and gloves, and even ice traction spikes for your boots. Transit could mean days of travel by planes, car, and helicopter to a ship overseeing operations at the edge of the oil spill. Meanwhile, the oil is being whipped by the wind and waves into the nooks and crannies on the underside of sea ice, where it could be frozen into place.

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NOAA Again Joins Coast Guard for Oil Spill Exercise in the Arctic

It is no mystery anymore that the Arctic is undergoing unprecedented change and the extent of summer sea ice continues to shrink. As the ice contracts, shipping within and across the Arctic, oil and gas exploration, and tourism likely will increase, as will fishing, if fisheries continue migrating north to cooler waters. With more oil-powered activity in the Arctic and potentially out-of-date nautical charts, the region also will see an increased risk of oil spills.

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