Weather conditions can be particularly challenging in that both colder-than-normal and warmer-than-normal conditions can cause problems in the Arctic. Onshore, the marshy Arctic tundra can preclude exploration activities during the warm months of the year, thereby confining exploratory drilling to a few winter months. If summer comes earlier than expected (as was the case in Alaska in April 2009), it can leave equipment stranded and hinder some exploratory well drilling. Similarly, a late onset of winter weather delays construction of the ice roads required to transport heavy equipment across the tundra. Offshore, cold conditions can lead to greater than anticipated ice pack, which can damage offshore facilities, while also hindering the shipment of personnel, materials, equipment, and oil for long time periods. Further challenges are associated with severe weather search and rescue operations.
Political issues stemming from the overlapping and disputed claims of economic sovereignty between neighboring jurisdictions also pose a challenge to resource development in the Arctic. The area north of the Arctic Circle is apportioned among eight countries - Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Under current international practice, countries have exclusive rights to seabed resources up to 200 miles beyond their coast, an area called an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Beyond the EEZ, countries must demonstrate that the seabed is a "natural prolongation" of the continental shelf in order to claim seabed rights. These practices have led to several overlapping claims between countries. For example, Russia has made a claim that its shelf extends all the way to the North Pole along the Lomonosov Ridge.
Prior to 2011, there were two major disputes regarding the boundaries of EEZs in the Arctic; currently, one of these is ongoing, while the other has been resolved. The ongoing dispute involves the maritime border between the United States and Canada in the Beaufort Sea. This border dispute has led to competing claims over an 8,100 square mile slice of the Sea, with each country considering the slice part of its EEZ. The disputed area is thought to contain significant energy resources. In 2010, Russia and Norway signed a treaty establishing a maritime border between the countries, resolving the status of 67,000 square miles in the Barents Sea. The treaty has since been ratified, opening up the area for mapping and seismic studies of potential hydrocarbon resources.