As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, a panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) declares in a report released today. The committee, made up of members of academia and industry, recommended beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.The report “identifies the different pieces that need to come together” to have a chance at an effective oil spill response, says Martha Grabowski, a researcher in information systems at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and chair of the NRC committee.Even in the absence of oil and gas exploration, the Arctic’s rapidly intensifying traffic—whether from barges, research ships, oil tankers, or passenger cruises—makes oil spills increasingly likely. So “the committee felt some urgency” about the issue, says geologist Mark Myers, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The report, sponsored by 10 organizations ranging from the American Petroleum Institute to the Marine Mammal Commission, focused primarily on the United States’ territorial waters north of the Bering Strait, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Cleaning up oil in the Arctic is particularly tricky for a number of reasons, the committee notes. The extreme weather conditions are one problem. The lack of many kinds of data—high-resolution topography and bathymetry along the coasts; measurements of ice cover and thickness; distributions in space and time of the region’s fish, birds, and marine mammals—is another. And if an emergency happens, there’s no infrastructure in place—no consistent U.S. Coast Guard presence and no reliable supply chains to support a rapid response.On top of that, there is little real-world information about how the Arctic’s own oil (rather than an amalgam from an oil pipeline, as is now tested) will behave in the Arctic’s heavily stratified water column, which could prevent deep spills from reaching the surface. Then there’s the lingering question of how effective chemical dispersants or oil-munching microbes are in the frigid Arctic environment. And virtually nothing is known about how oil and sea ice will interact. “Ice really changes everything,” Myers says. Some oil might make its way into the ice, only to later become liquid again when the ice melts; some might remain trapped beneath it, moving with the ice—or possibly not. “We have very few observations of the under-ice environment,” he says.The report calls for upgrading oil spill response infrastructure, additional studies, and more coordination between agencies, industry, academia, and other Arctic nations. Grabowski also emphasized the need for standardization—of data collection and sharing, of oil spill exercises and responses.Who would coordinate all of this and who would pay for it remain unsettled questions. Grabowski notes that she and her panel members recommend public-private partnerships, interagency coordination, and working with, for example, local communities to develop trained response teams in local villages. “But in terms of an overall framework,” she says, “I think that that is a wide-open question. And obviously connected to that is a resource question. We can identify lots of ideas for a framework but without adequate resources that causes a real difficulty.”Still, amid the flurry of Arctic-related reports that have papered Washington, D.C., in the last few years, the committee hopes its recommendations will stick. By digging “deep into the science,” Myers says, “we felt it was going to be a good authoritative source which people can use to help make decisions.”“This is a study that’s both broad and deep,” Grabowski adds. “In terms of whether anyone picks this up and runs with it—that’s another step.”
Tomorrow is Halloween, and to honor the holiday, we are featuring this creepy animation in our GitHub Project of the Week. Halloween eyes is a motion-sensitive animation that makes electronic eyes go from sweet and friendly to mean and spooky when you get closer.“For Halloween this year, some friends did a sort of ‘mini haunted house’ in their garage,” wrote its creator, a technology enthusiast known as Enigma. “The plan was to mix having a small party with handing out candy and to just have the whole tableau exude a sort of spooky ambience. It sure beat watching scary movies, putting them on pause every few minutes to answer the door. The underlying theme was to create a sort of Beetlejuice/Tim Burton speakeasy.”To add to the spooky ambience, Enigma decided to create the eyes. The eyes were stashed in the bushes and gave him and his friends an early warning sign when people were approaching.To create the eyes, he used a design and code based off the Adafruit Roboface Arduino code and hardware. “The two eyes in the original code are functionally and electrically identical—in other words, they do not work independently, and both display the same eye graphic,” he wrote.The plans and source code are available on GitHub. You might still have some time to add this to your house for some fun trick or treating! Top 5 trending GitHub projects of the week#1. Aerial: A Mac screensaver that is based off the new Apple TV screensaver displays.#2. Butter Desktop: The free components of Popcorn Time. Allows users to watch movies through torrent streaming.#3. CSSgram: A CSS and Sass library of Instagram filters.#4. FreeCodeCamp: A place where programmers can learn how to code for free. Featured in a previous GitHub Project of the Week.#5. Mimic: A way to create chaos using (or abusing) Unicode.