News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Great Lakes hope for much needed new icebreaker after back to back winters of historic ice coverage. 18 ships stuck in Great Lakes ice in April 2015 had to be extricated by Canada icebreakers-Duluth News Tribune

5/22/15, "New icebreaker for Great Lakes closer to reality," Duluth News Tribune, Brady Slater

March 2014
"Earlier this week, out on Lake Superior aboard the research vessel Blue Heron, scientist Jay Austin described some of his research into ice on the Great Lakes.

Back-to-back winters of historic ice coverage have reversed a 15-year trend of diminishing ice cover on the Great Lakes. The epic ice coverage of the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 led to difficult and extended ice-out seasons that hurt the shipping industry and led to a drumbeat for more icebreaking resources.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $8.7 billion in funding for the U.S. Coast Guard that would include money for a new Great Lakes icebreaker. The new icebreaker would be similar to the Mackinaw, the only heavy icebreaker among the Coast Guard's Great Lakes fleet that includes eight other capable but smaller vessels.

"The need is very real," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association that represents 16 American companies operating U.S.-flag vessels, including the Duluth-based Great Lakes Fleet. "These past two winters we've had significant delays and reductions in the amount of cargo that's been (able) to move."

April's shipping totals were down 6 percent from historical averages, with Nekvasil blaming the heavy ice formations in Whitefish Bay on the eastern end of Lake Superior. That early April soup of ice was 8 feet thick in some places, with slabs as big as pickup trucks. It left 18 vessels tied up in the bay, requiring a massive icebreaking effort that drew in the Canadian Coast Guard's icebreaking fleet to assist.

The House Transportation Committee responded by authorizing the construction of a new freshwater icebreaker.

"This state-of-the-art ship will be especially designed for freshwater ice, which is much harder to break up than seawater ice," Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Crosby, said in a news release at the time.

Nolan is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His communications director, Steve Johnson, said similar vessels to the one in the funding package approved by the House have cost "in the $240 million range." The authorizing legislation will need to clear hurdles with the Senate and President before it's fully approved. Assuming all goes according to plan, Johnson said, the ship would be included in the 2017 Coast Guard appropriations bill, in which Congress will approve the actual amount that can be spent.

In President Barack Obama's commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy earlier this week, the President gave a hint at his commitment to Coast Guard funding when he said, "These are tight fiscal times for all our services, including the Coast Guard. But we are going to keep working to give you the boats and the cutters and the aircraft that you need to complete the missions we ask of you.

"And I've made it clear that I will not accept a budget that continues these draconian budget cuts called sequestration," the President continued, "because our nation and our military and our Coast Guard deserve better."

Late this week the Ontario-based Chamber of Marine Commerce weighed in, too, urging reforms and action to ensure greater industrial competitiveness. The group represents more than 150 marine industry stakeholders in Canada and the U.S.

"Our industry can improve its competitive position by increased icebreaker resources to critical regions of the Great Lakes," said Rick Ruzzin in a news release. Ruzzin is an executive with Compass Minerals, a Kansas-based company with operations in Duluth, and a member of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

All of this has been music to the carriers' ears.

"We have to recognize that we have to move cargo in the ice season," Nekvasil said. "The mines want a navigation season from mid-March well into January. That's just what's required."

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., at the eastern end of Lake Superior, close annually on Jan. 15 and reopen March 25. In the weeks before and after those dates, "we can move as much as 20 percent" of overall cargo, Nekvasil said. "We need to minimize stockpiles. (Iron ore) pellets sitting on the ground is a cost we need to minimize."

Nekvasil said there are nine U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking vessels on the Great Lakes, including the Mackinaw, twin 225-foot cutters — including the Duluth-based cutter Alder — and six 140-foot icebreaking tugs.

"The 225s are really buoy tenders with their bows reinforced," Nekvasil said. "They're not designed to do icebreaking; they're OK for track maintenance, but not good for doing heavy icebreaking."

The tugs, he said, "do a very good job," but were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"It's time for them to be modernized," Nekvasil said. Currently, the tugs are undergoing modernization on a one-in, one-out rotation, leaving the fleet down a tug throughout what figures to be a three- to five-year update process, Nekvasil said.

The drumbeat for another heavy icebreaker like the 240-foot Mackinaw started during the winter of 2013-14, when the Great Lakes were as much as 92.6 percent covered in ice. Ice out that year on Lake Superior wasn't declared until June 6.

"The need is obvious," Nekvasil said, "and they have gotten the message.""

Image caption: "Led by the big icebreaker Mackinaw, the smaller U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking tugs Morro Bay (center) and Katmai Bay arrive in succession in Duluth in March 2014. The vessels arrived in Duluth to lead several freighters through thick ice to the Soo Locks. (2014 file / News Tribune)"

Comment: This article says a hoped for new icebreaker is a small part of a massive 2017 appropriations bill that has to be approved by the Senate and White House. The article seeks a positive sign: "In President Barack Obama's commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy earlier this week, the President gave a hint at his commitment to Coast Guard funding."...

Looking at Mr. Obama's Coast Guard speech for signs he might approve a Great Lakes icebreaker, and assuming icebreakers can't be allocated by congress or Executive Order on an as-needed basis, one may recall that Obama spoke not of fighting ice but of fighting global warming. He told cadets global warming was "a serious threat" to national security, that their failure to take global warming  seriously would be "a dereliction of duty." He even told them global warming was the cause of Boko Haram terrorism in Africa and civil war in Syria. (He used the term "climate change" rather than the term global warming). The Great Lakes as it happens are a favorite focus of the global warming industry, ie the claim that they'll soon be ice-free due to excess CO2 in China.


Obama's remarks at Coast Guard graduation:

5/20/2015, "At Coast Guard graduation, Obama warns of climate change threat to national security," Washington Post, David Nakamura

"President Obama warned Wednesday that climate change is a growing and "serious threat" to national security, tying severe weather to the rise of the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria and the civil war in Syria....

Obama challenged 218 newly commissioned officers at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to take the threats of climate as seriously as they would a cutter in peril on the seas.

"You don’t sit back; you take steps to protect your ship," Obama said. "Anything less is a dereliction of duty. The same is true for climate change."...

"Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security," he told the graduates in their dress white uniforms at the campus football stadium, "and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.  And so we need to act— and we need to act now.”...

In his remarks here, Obama tied droughts and crop damage from severe weather to the rise of Boko Haram, which has terrorized civilians in Nigeria, and to the bloody civil war in Syria. He cast controlling climate change as a "key pillar of American global leadership" and called it "a core element of our diplomacy.""...


Ice-free Great Lakes predicted by global warming experts at Union of Concerned Scientists:

Executive Summary, updated 2005

"Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region," Union of Concerned Scientists 

p. 3, "What might these changes mean for Great Lakes ecosystems and the goods and services they provide?  


"Lake levels were highly variable in the 1900s and quite low in recent years. Future declines in both inland lakes and the Great Lakes are expected as winter ice coverage decreases, although levels of the Great Lakes are uncertain once they are ice-free (Lofgren 2006a; Lofgren 2006b).

Declines in the duration of winter ice are expected to continue."...


NASA says "a range of risks" will effect Great Lakes due to "extreme heat" of global warming:

"The current and future consequences of global change," (retrieved May 25, 2015)

"Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner....

Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.


Declining Great Lakes ice, 2012 National Geographic:

11/20/2012, "Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes,", Lisa Borre  

"Low water levels are not the only climate-related trend being observed on the Great Lakes. Ice cover is also declining. The Great Lakes have lost 71% of their ice cover since 1973, according to a study by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). This past winter, the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, were virtually ice free with just 5% ice coverage, the second lowest on record....

The Great Lakes are among many lakes in the northern hemisphere experiencing a rapid warming trend. Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the also one of the most rapidly warming lakes in the world....

With nearly 20% of the world’s surface freshwater at play and millions invested in restoration efforts, the stakes are incredibly high....

Lake Superior’s rapid warming is like a canary in the coal mine,Lenters told me. “We’re seeing changes in ice cover, water temperature, and evaporation that indicate major shifts are underway on the world’s largest lake.”"...


Lake Superior fails to conform to global warming predictions:

5/12/15, "Lake Superior Ice Amazes This Year," Radio Canada Int'l., Carmel Kilkenny

"Lake Superior the largest of the Great Lakes froze almost completely this winter, for the first time in years. It was so unexpected 18 ships were trapped in the ice."...


More failure to conform to global warming predictions:

5/19/15, "It’s nearly Memorial Day, it snowed in Wisconsin and there’s ice on Lake Superior," Washington Post, Jason Samenow

"It snowed in parts of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan today and a sliver of ice covers a part of the Great Lakes.

A cold wind blowing over Lake Superior caused some lake-enhanced snow this morning, with up to an inch reported. Meanwhile, the National Ice Center’s May 18 report still shows 0.4 percent of the Great Lakes covered with ice.

This is much later than normal to have ice on the Lakes.  In a typical year, the ice completely disappears by late April or early May....

According to the latest National Ice Center analysis, the ice on Lake Huron is basically gone. But on Lake Superior, there is a 1.1 percent ice concentration.

At this time last year, 2.6 percent of the Lakes were covered with ice, including a 7 percent concentration on Lake Superior. Ice lasted on Lake Superior past Memorial Day into the first week of June. [Unprecedented: Parts of Lake Superior covered in ice almost a week into June]

A comparison of temperatures...provides a reasonable explanation for the greater ice extent in 2014 – it was colder in the Great Lakes and the ice was thus more extensive."...via Instapundit


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