HARC Online Workshops 2001 | Overview
Sea Ice: Effects of sea ice changes on coastal communities
3-7 December 2001
Moderated by Igor Krupnik, Jim Maslanik, and Alex Whiting
"Are sea ice conditions changing in the Arctic, and if so what changes are occurring, how do they vary regionally, and what are the effects on people?"
Summaries of the workshop discussion for each day:
The effects of variations in Arctic sea ice cover are direct and dramatic for those who live along the Arctic coast,. In other ways, they are indirect and subtle, such as through the influence of ice on oceans and weather. Sea ice conditions and trends have been the subject of detailed observation for centuries by indigenous peoples, and over the past hundred years by western civilization, beginning with the activities of whaling ships and extending through studies of the effects of shipping and mineral extraction in the Arctic. The relevance of the ice cover to global climate has, however, received increased attention recently as concerns grow about the causes and effects of climatic change.
Predictions of global warming generally find that changes in climate are greatest in the polar regions, and that reductions in ice cover are one of the most obvious and dramatic of these changes. Observations of ice cover, primarily from satellites during the past 20 years, suggest a general decrease in Arctic sea ice extent, but with large interannual and regional variations. Indigenous people report a variety of changes in ice conditions that may or may not be related to a general change in climate. For example, residents of Alaska's North Slope report thinner ice, later formation and earlier melt, less stable shore-fast ice, and a decreased presence of thick, old ice in recent years.
As this breadth of interest in Arctic sea ice cover suggests, observers
and researchers have assembled a wealth of knowledge and information related
to ice conditions. Significant gaps remain though, in our understanding
of the long-term variations in ice cover, the effects of these changes,
and the role of local versus large-scale weather and
climate in controlling sea ice. Much remains to be learned about how best to use different types of knowledge, observations, and models to better predict sea ice changes. As the performance of models and satellite observing systems improve, it is important to define the types of predictions and monitoring that are most important for different human activities.
We have identified a few questions to set the stage for the discussion. The questions attempt to encompass the issues relating to changing sea ice and impacts on people. Under each question in the forum, participants may add topics of discussion or comment within existing topics. We hope you will feel free to comment and add new topics that cover issues not yet addressed.
We hope to identify:
- New or recent information available
- Evidence of changes in or related to sea ice
- The significant relationships and feedbacks
- The key unknowns
- What research is needed now to feel the gaps and to get better understanding
- How is arctic sea ice changing?
Evidence from local, traditional, and indigenous knowledge, ice charting, satellite analyses and other observations.
- How do changes in sea ice relate to overall climate and climate
A discussion of sea ice extent, concentration, thickness, and type, and the links between climatic factors affecting sea ice, global circulation and day-to-day conditions affecting sea ice.
- How do changes in sea ice affect physical processes?
Physical impacts of sea ice and how these might change, for example, ocean-atmosphere heat transfer, brine generation, deep water formation, and large-scale transport of low-salinity water.
- How will changes in sea ice affect processes such as coastal erosion, to which coastal communities are vulnerable?
- How do changes in sea ice affect ecosystems, coastal conditions
- How will changes in sea ice affect subsistence hunting practices,
through the availability of marine mammals and through access to hunting
- What are the likely economic impacts of sea ice change on shipping,
development, and other large-scale activities?
"Although climate change is often discussed in terms of gradual
trends in temperature and precipitation, both indigenous knowledge and
ice-core records paint a picture of more dramatically variable weather
-- People and the Arctic: A Prospectus for Research on the Human Dimensions of the Arctic System.