Arctic Observations to Meet Scientific and Societal Needs
Advancing science in the Arctic is crucial to understanding global climate dynamics, supporting policy decisions, and managing nationally and internationally important resources. In coordination with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) and USGEO, USGCRP member agencies observe and monitor the Arctic environment to understand the impacts of global change on this ecologically, culturally, and economically significant region. Polar orbiting satellites provide data that are combined with information from surface-based measurement networks, airborne and field campaigns, and research initiatives. U.S. Arctic observing capabilities and campaigns are highly multidisciplinary, spanning the physical, biological, and social sciences, and rely on the cooperative and complementary efforts of many agencies. In FY 2015, Arctic observations will build upon capabilities developed in recent years to support new science on sea level rise, changes to sea ice extent, weather forecasting, and permafrost ecosystems; strengthen international partnerships; and provide new information for environmental protection and decision support.
Arctic Observational CampaignsThe Arctic is an FY 2015 interagency research priority for USGCRP (Section 4) within the Program’s ongoing emphasis on weather and climate extremes and Earth system tipping points. Major long-term and upcoming Arctic observational campaigns are detailed below.
FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH AND MONITORING
NASA’s Operation IceBridge measures polar ice bodies to better understand their connection to the global climate system. Using aircraft equipped for radar and precision laser observations, IceBridge assesses annual changes in the thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and continental ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, while simultaneously measuring other key parameters required to improve forecasts of ice loss and sea level rise. IceBridge is part of a multi-decadal NASA mission to collect a time series of ice thickness changes. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/8Vmk
DOE maintains two Atmospheric Radiation Measurement observatories on the North Slope of Alaska, one at Barrow and one at Oliktok Point, designed to investigate relationships between the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice across the Arctic. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/8VPB
DOE’s Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment – Arctic represents a decadal-scale effort to observe and understand processes that drive changes in permafrost ecosystems, based on intensive field campaigns in Alaska. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/5PSw
The Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, led by NASA, will use ground-based research paired with geospatial data from aircraft and satellites to better understand ecosystem and societal vulnerabilities to climate change in the Arctic and boreal regions of western North America. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/8VmP
Among its many applications, NASA’s upcoming Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite mission will provide new information about soil moisture and permafrost freeze/thaw cycles to support Arctic and boreal ecological research. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/8VEH
- A number of ongoing polar-orbiting satellite missions routinely provide key data for Arctic monitoring and research, including weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), passive microwave measurements of sea ice from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, NASA Aqua/ MODIS imaging data, visible and thermal infrared Landsat data from NASA and DOI’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and others.
U.S. SUPPORT FOR INTERNATIONAL NETWORKS
- The Arctic Observing Network contributes to international sustained Arctic observations and comprises an interagency system of environmental monitoring capabilities—from ocean buoys to satellites—to advance understanding of the significant and rapid changes occurring in the Arctic. A few examples of current Arctic observing efforts that support this effort are the Distributed Biological Observatory (NSF, NOAA, and international partners), the Thermal State of Permafrost (NSF; DOI’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service; DOE; and international partners), and the Community-based Observation Network for Adaptation and Security (NSF and international partners). To learn more, visit: http://goo.gl/KWBWFB
NOAA, NASA, NSF, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Coast Guard work with partners in academia to deploy buoys in Arctic seas as part of the International Arctic Buoy Program. This network of drifting buoys provides critical meteorological and oceanographic data that are used for both research and operational purposes. The buoys provide information on sea ice age, extent, movement, and other factors. To learn more, visit: http://goo.gl/Lyhy3C
SUSTAINABILITY AND ADAPTATION
DOI’s Alaska Climate Science Center aims to understand and support sustainable solutions for the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s ecosystems and natural and cultural resources. A recent project uses satellite altimetry, radar, and gravity observations collected by NASA to quantify the impact of changing glacial runoff on coastal ecosystems. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/8VyF
USDA operates a nationwide Soil Climate Analysis Network—which includes stations in the Arctic—to support natural resource assessments and conservation activities. In addition to weather parameters, this network collects soil temperature and soil moisture data at various depths. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/NxgF
NOAA’s Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, part of the Regional Integrated Sciences & Assessments (RISA) program, recently worked with research partners to produce an atlas of Alaska sea ice. The atlas—developed in response to the needs of coastal communities, maritime industries, and the military—features digitized observational data on sea ice for Alaska coastal waters to a distance of 300 miles from shore. To learn more, visit: http://goo.gl/nmHJwj