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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Monitoring change in Alaska and the Arctic


A lake near Fairbanks, Alaska shows signs of thawing permafrost below the surface¾including “drunken trees” that tip over as soil shifts around their roots. Through the ABoVE campaign, scientists are investigating the impacts of warming temperatures on northern lakes like this one. Credit: Kate Ramsayer, NASA.

By monitoring trends such as permafrost thaw, shifts in wildfire, and changing wildlife habitats, a multi-year field campaign seeks to provide the scientific basis for informed decision-making in response to change.

Climate change in the Arctic and Boreal Region is unfolding faster than anywhere else on Earth. Observations reveal reduced Arctic sea ice, widespread changes to coastlines and waterways, thawing of permafrost soils and decomposition of long-frozen organic matter, and shifts in ecosystem structure and function. These changes have far-reaching impacts in the region as well as implications for global climate1. As part of a broader effort to improve understanding of the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems and society to a changing environment, NASA and its partners have begun a multi-year field campaign to investigate the ecological impacts of a rapidly changing climate in Alaska and northwestern Canada. The Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will build upon ongoing research sponsored by multiple Federal agencies, bringing together on-the-ground research with data collected by NASA airborne instruments, satellites, and other agency programs.

In the summer of 2017, an ABoVE airborne remote sensing campaign collected an extensive data set over study sites in Alaska and northwestern Canada. The campaign was coordinated with multiple U.S. agencies, including NASA, DOE, NSF, NOAA, USDA-Forest Service, U.S Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Canadian partners. Flights were coordinated across multiple field sites in Alaska and northwestern Canada during the growing season to link remote sensing data with key environmental and societal processes. ABoVE will continue the cooperative remote sensing campaign during the summers of 2018–2020 using the Airborne Visual Imaging Infrared Spectrometer, L-Band Radar, and possibly the Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor.


1 Taylor, P.C., W. Maslowski, J. Perlwitz, and D.J. Wuebbles, 2017: Arctic changes and their effects on Alaska and the rest of the United States. In: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I[Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 303-332, https://doi.org/10.7930/J00863GK.