Witness the Arctic

Volume 14
Number 1
25 October 2010

Feature Article

Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook Combines Scientific and Local Knowledge

The Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO) was launched in spring 2010 as a Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) pilot project to provide resources for Alaska Native walrus subsistence hunters, coastal communities, and others interested in sea ice and walrus. Weekly reports provided observations and predictions of sea ice and weather conditions for key walrus areas in Alaska.

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International News

Oslo Science Conference Marks Conclusion of IPY

The Oslo Science Conference, held 8-13 June 2010, marked the conclusion of the International Polar Year (IPY), which ran from March 2007 to March 2009. Under the auspices of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the IPY Joint Committee decided to hold an international wrap-up conference to present results and facilitate interaction between IPY participants. The conference, which represented the largest ever gathering of polar researchers, was scheduled for 2010 to allow researchers time to prepare results from their investigations.

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International Study of Arctic Change Activities

ISAC Welcomes New Staff

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A Note from the ARCUS President

Perspective on the State of the Arctic Conference

The State of the Arctic Conference, held in Miami, Florida 16-19 March 2010, was a truly significant event. The Arctic is undergoing enormous changes, primarily driven by climate, but with startling socio-economic as well as ecological impacts. This conference brought together a wide range of expertise from many nations, providing an ideal opportunity to bring forth the current state of our knowledge in a broad and comprehensive sense, while at the same time addressing potential impacts through multi-disciplinary discussions. In this, it represents a major step forward.

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Interagency News

NOAA Developing Arctic Vision and Strategy

In April 2010, NOAA released a draft Arctic Vision and Strategy, which provides a high-level framework and strategic goals to address NOAA's highest priorities in the region. This report articulates a vision for the Arctic based on assumptions that the region will continue to experience dramatic change, become more accessible to human activities, and be a focus of increasing global strategic interest.

NOAA identified six strategic goals:

  1. Forecast sea ice;

  2. Strengthen foundational science to understand and observe changes in arctic climate and ecosystems;

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National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Program Restructured

The White House announced a major restructuring of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) as a result of delays, cost overruns, and difficulties with the management and budget structure. NPOESS was conceived in 1994 as a multi-agency initiative to develop a constellation of polar orbiting environmental satellites that would provide global coverage on weather, atmosphere, oceans, land, and space.

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National Science Foundation News

USCG Icebreaker Polar Sea Under Repair

This summer, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the icebreaker Polar Sea experienced an engine casualty and would be unable to deploy its scheduled fall and winter 2010 cruise activities. The engine difficulty was discovered during a scheduled dry-dock maintenance period following their successful support of a spring 2010 Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) research cruise. The Polar Sea was commissioned in 1977 and has operated in the Arctic Ocean since 1979. As of spring 2010, Polar Sea had made 18 voyages to the Antarctic and 22 voyages to the Arctic. Repairs are anticipated to be

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NSF Solicits Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) Synthesis Proposals

NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter to invite synthesis proposals for data resulting from the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) program. BEST, initiated in 2007 by the NSF Office of Polar Programs, was designed to develop understanding of the effects of a varying sea-ice cover on the Bering shelf ecosystem, to project the potential changes in response to anticipated climate variations on decadal time scales, and to assess the vulnerability and sustainability of the local communities to such changes.

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NSF Releases Solicitation to Augment Science Support on Research Cruises

The NSF Office of Polar Programs has released an announcement of opportunity entitled "Ship-based Science Technical Support in the Arctic (STARC): Augmenting Science Support on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Healy and Polar Sea."

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Science Policy News

National Science and Technology Council to Coordinate Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee Activities

On 22 July 2010, the Obama Administration directed the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate certain activities assigned to the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC). The Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 created IARPC and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) to provide comprehensive policy dealing with national research needs and objectives in the Arctic. This Presidential Memorandum supports the growing national focus on the Arctic by further encouraging increased collaboration and coordination among federal agencies. NSTC, an executive-level

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

New SEARCH Science Steering Committee (SSC) Chair

Hajo Eicken, professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was appointed new Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Science Steering Committee (SSC) Chair in early 2010. Dr. Eicken's research interests are in the field of sea-ice geophysics. In particular, he is interested in how small-scale properties and the microstructure of sea ice impact processes on a larger scale, as well as the role of sea ice in the climate system. He is also involved in activities that examine how scientists can improve access to the vast amount of data collected during

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Understanding Arctic Change Workshop Held in Seattle

An "Understanding Arctic Change" workshop was held 29 September–1 October 2010 in Seattle, Washington as a collaborative activity of the SEARCH and ARCSS programs. The workshop gathered a diverse group of scientists to develop a white paper that:

1. Identifies key unknowns and key science questions for understanding arctic system change; and

2. Identifies the next steps in synthesis activities, methodologies, mechanisms, and approaches to address the identified key science questions.

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Arctic Observing Network Report Released

An AON report, "Arctic Observing Network (AON): 2009 Status Report and Key Recommendations" was released in August 2010. The report summarizes discussions from the third AON principal investigators meeting, held in fall 2009, and includes sections on AON accomplishments; network design, gaps, and needs; agency and international coordination; and data management.

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State of the Arctic Conference Highlights Interdisciplinary, System-Scale Science

The State of the Arctic Conference: At the Forefront of Global Change was held 16-19 March 2010 in Miami, Florida. The main goal of the conference was to review understanding of the arctic system in a time of rapid environmental change. Topics ranged from basic understanding of the Arctic and system-wide change to developing response strategies to adapt to and mitigate change.

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Arctic System Science Program

ARCSS Seasonality Projects Meeting Held October 2010

Investigators from the 17 Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Changing Seasonality in the Arctic System (CSAS) Projects that were awarded in 2009 (see Witness Fall 2009) started a process to coordinate research efforts between projects with a Principal Investigator meeting in October 2010. The goal of the meeting, held at the University of Vermont, was to explore opportunities for cross-project integration and synthesis. The meeting's Organizing Committee included Andrea Lloyd, Middlebury College; William (Breck) Bowden, University of

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International Synthesis Workshop Focuses on Progress and Gaps in Freshwater Science

The Freshwater Integration Effort (FWI) held a synthesis capstone workshop on 30 September–4 October 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden to tie together key findings and outcomes of the FWI effort and integrate them with other international activities.

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Freshwater Integration (FWI) Synthesis Working Group Examines Intensification of the Arctic Hydrological Cycle

The Freshwater Integration Effort (FWI) was an Arctic System Science (ARCSS)-funded interdisciplinary program focused on the arctic hydrological cycle. FWI consisted of 22 projects, which ran from 2002-2006, on all aspects of the arctic freshwater system. The program is now undertaking final synthesis activities.

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Arctic Social Sciences Program

ARCUS Releases Second Printing of The Earth is Faster Now

ARCUS announces the release of the second edition of The Earth is Faster Now (Krupnik and Jolly, eds. 2002) with a new 2010 forward by co-editor Igor Krupnik. The volume features ten individual studies, primarily in arctic North America, on indigenous knowledge of climate change. It includes personal observations, numerous illustrations, and photographs, as well as new recommended readings.

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Final BOREAS Conference: Environments, Movements, Narratives in the Circumpolar North

BOREAS is a major international and interdisciplinary research program in arctic social sciences and humanities. BOREAS was started in 2003 through collaboration between the European Science Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council.

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Science News

Paleoclimate Project Shows Arctic Temperatures and Ecosystems Highly Sensitive to Carbon Dioxide Levels

A recent study indicates that ground surface temperatures in the Arctic may be more sensitive to the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously thought. Using three independent proxy temperature records from an early Pliocene peat deposit in the Canadian High Arctic, investigators estimate that mean annual temperature of the paleo-arctic environment was 19°C (34°F) warmer than today. While arctic temperatures were significantly warmer during the Pliocene, CO2 levels were only slightly higher than at present. These findings indicate that arctic temperatures are highly sensitive to greenhouse

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Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Integrated Bering Sea Project in Final Year of Field Activities

The Bering Sea is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, sustaining nearly half of U.S. annual commercial fish landings and providing food and cultural value to thousands of coastal and island residents. In 2007 the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) entered into a partnership to support the Bering Sea Project, a comprehensive $52 million investigation to understand how climate change is affecting the Bering Sea ecosystem, ranging from lower trophic levels (e.g., plankton) to fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and ultimately humans

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U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Update from the U.S. Arctic Research Commission

The Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 established the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), whose principal duties are to develop and recommend an integrated national arctic research policy and to assist in establishing a national arctic research program plan to implement the policy. USARC Commissioners facilitate cooperation among the federal government, state and local governments, and other nations with respect to basic and applied arctic research. USARC is currently working with other federal entities to implement the Presidential Memorandum of 22 July 2010, regarding the Arctic

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Capitol Updates

NSF and Arctic Research Funding to Increase Under Proposed Budget

The Administration's FY 2011 budget proposal, released on 1 February 2010, provides $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation. This funding level reflects the President's Plan for Science and Innovation giving NSF an 8% increase over the level enacted in the FY 2010 federal budget.

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Witness the Arctic provides information on current Arctic research efforts and findings, significant research initiatives, national policy affecting Arctic research, international activities, and profiles of institutions with major Arctic research efforts. Witness serves an audience of Arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policy makers. Witness was published biannually in hardcopy from 1995-2008 (archives are available below); starting in early 2009 the issues have been published online. Witness has over 8,700 subscribers.



With the Spring 2009 issue, ARCUS changed the format of Witness the Arctic. To provide more frequent updates and reduce printing and mailing costs and associated environmental impacts, the newsletter is now distributed online in three or four shorter issues per year, depending on newsworthy events.


If you have a question or an idea for a Witness article, contact Betsy Turner-Bogren at betsy@arcus.org.

Witness Community Highlights

Witness Community Highlights is an online publication launched in May 2017 to complement the regular publications of Witness the Arctic. It was developed in response to community feedback identifying the need for a monthly publication to highlight 1–2 Arctic research efforts and other timely items of interest to our readers. Community Highlights is distributed monthly via our Witness the Arctic mailing list of over 8,700 subscribers.

Witness Community Highlights

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ARCUS is a nonprofit organization consisting of institutions organized and operated for educational, professional, or scientific purposes. Established by its member institutions in 1988 with the primary mission of strengthening arctic research, ARCUS activities are funded through cooperative agreements with NSF and the National Park Service, grants from NSF, a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and membership dues.

Witness the Arctic is published periodically by ARCUS. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

Executive Director: Susan E. Fox

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Kristina Creek, Helen Wiggins

Contributors: V. Alexander, A. Ballantyne, R. Crain, Y. Csonka, J.S. Damsté, J. Eberle, H. Eiken, J. Farrell, K. Farrow, D. Finney, D.R. Greenwood, H.R. Harvey, A. Hollowed, G. Hufford, M. Krause, I. Krupnik, S. LaFratta, C. Lee, A. Lloyd, R. Martin, J. Miller, K. Moran, F. Mueter, M. Murray, T. Nakamura, J. Napp, C. Nayokpuk, O. Orheim, J. Pundsack, M. Rawlins, C. Rosa, T. Rouleau, N. Rybczynski, J. Scott, V. Sharpton, M. Sigler, D. Smythe, N. Soreide, P. Stabeno, R. Storvold, G.R. Teichmann, K. Ultsein, T. Van Pelt, J. Ziker