The interagency Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) is organizing the first phase of a rapid planning process to provide guidance to NSF and other governmental agencies, the scientific community, and others engaged in arctic environmental observations on how to best achieve a well-designed, effective, and robust arctic observing system. With support from the NSF Office of Polar Programs, this planning effort is led by a recently formed Arctic Observing Network (AON) Design and Implementation (ADI) Task Force. Composed of 13 researchers with observing-system expertise both within and outside of the Arctic, the ADI Task Force will work with other key experts to identify and assess effective, promising approaches and tools for multidisciplinary observing system design and optimization.

The International Polar Year has facilitated substantial enhancement of observation campaigns and deployment of sensor networks, resulting in a phase of more widespread observing efforts carried out by many countries, including the AON projects currently funded by NSF. With U.S. agencies and others maintaining complementary observation efforts in the Arctic, there is now a need for coordination, consolidation, and optimization of the existing observing system elements, as well as for development of a broader strategy that includes more detailed design studies to enhance and sustain the observing system.

Building on community input, a combination of virtual and in-person meetings, and a small array of proof-of-concept studies overseen by the task force, the ADI planning effort is expected to culminate in summer 2010 with a summary report of recommendations for the next steps in optimizing, coordinating, and enhancing the existing components of an international arctic environmental observing system.

As part of the first phase of this effort, the ADI Task Force convened a small workshop in early December 2009 in conjunction with the AON Principal Investigators' meeting in Boulder, Colorado. Workshop participants reviewed lessons learned from other large-scale observing system efforts, discussed a range of different approaches that hold promise in observing system design, and developed rough outlines of potential proof-of-concept studies. Based on this work, follow-up activities, and reviews by the task force, a set of exploratory, small-scale studies has been developed to aid in task force efforts. These studies will be reviewed and synthesized at a follow-up workshop in early summer.

The ADI Task Force welcomes comments and input regarding observing system design efforts. For more information on the ADI planning effort, including task force membership, or to provide input, go to or contact Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (hajo.eicken [at]