Warming Climate in Alaska Causes Headaches for Oil Companies

In an ironic twist, oil companies operating on Alaska’s North Slope are finding their work impeded by a warming climate. The companies depend on long stretches of hard freeze during which they can haul heavy drilling equipment over tundra, but those cold periods are shrinking. In 1970, there were more than 200 days with adequate snow and ice cover to meet state standards for safe tundra travel; in recent years, there have been only about half that many days. The window for oil exploration on the North Slope “seems to get shorter every year,” said Jack Bergeron of oil company Total E&P USA. Meanwhile, a serious heat wave that has beset much of Europe this summer has convinced many that global warming is a reality. Though scientists remind people that a single natural event cannot be attributed to climate change, Europeans can’t help but think something serious is awry when they observe the droughts, unusually high temperatures, and forest fires that have spread across the continent.