Witness the Arctic

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Study of Environmental Arctic Change
In April, the SEARCH Science Steering Committee (SSC) released a set of draft 5-year goals and objectives for review by the broader arctic science community. The goals and objectives will direct the SEARCH program in the next five years. They are not intended to represent all of the science questions important for SEARCH, but have been selected as shorter-term priorities that are ready for implementation.
The SEARCH and International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC) steering groups released a "Dear Colleague" letter to encourage SEARCH and ISAC-relevant proposals to the recent NSF solicitation on Arctic Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability ( ArcSEES , see funding article in this issue of Witness ). The Dear Colleague letter highlights three reports that may be useful in linking proposal topics to identified priorities from the science community. The NSF ArcSEES solicitation presents an excellent opportunity to propose projects that implement ideas developed by the broad SEARCH...
Distribution of individual Pan-Arctic Outlook values (June Report) for September
The first Sea Ice Outlook reports for 2012 have been released. The SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook produces monthly reports throughout the summer that synthesize projections of the expected sea ice minimum at both pan-arctic and regional scales. The June Pan-Arctic Summary, Pan-Arctic Full Outlook, and Regional Outlook are available at: http://www.arcus.org/search-program/seaiceoutlook/2012/june .
Map of flight lines and data sets.
A new webpage developed through SEARCH provides access to early-release datasets on ice thickness, snow depth, and ice characteristics collected in March/April of 2012 in the North American Arctic. The webpage is available at: http://www.arcus.org/search/seaiceoutlook/ice-thickness-data.
A U.S. Arctic Observing Coordination Workshop was held in March in Anchorage, Alaska, to coordinate U.S. activities to observe and monitor the Arctic. The workshop brought together 104 participants, including arctic scientists; local, state, and federal agency representatives; decision makers; data managers; and other stakeholders.
The AON Design and Implementation (ADI) Task Force provides guidance to NSF, the scientific community, and others on how to achieve a well-designed and effective interagency Arctic Observing Network. The Task Force will meet in July in Boulder, Colorado to develop a final Task Force report with recommendations for optimizing components of an international arctic environmental observing system, with emphasis on the U.S. AON. The report, which will be released this fall, will:

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Schematic of SnowSTAR field work. Photo courtesy of Chris Polashenski.
During mid-April 2012 an interagency team completed a 13-day campaign as the first phase of an innovative field project, entitled SnowSTAR 2012, to measure the snow cover of the North Slope of Alaska. The 16-member team, funded in part by NSF’s Arctic Sciences Division, included scientists from the U.S. Army Cold Region Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the University of Alaska, Colorado State University, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and Ultimate Thule Lodge. Working near Toolik Lake, just north of the Brooks Range, the team measured the snow...

Arctic Social Sciences Program

1964 photo of dogs moving a house.
Introduction Since 1976, social anthropologist and ethnographer Ann Fienup-Riordan has worked in southwest Alaska documenting traditional Yup'ik knowledge of communities in the Bering Sea coastal area and delta system of the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. Her recent work aims to conceptualize the Bering Sea ecosystem in Alaska Native terms and is part of the Integrated Bering Sea Project (see Witness , Fall 2010 ).
Map of excavation site, Ben A. Potter
Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks recently recovered Pleistocene - or Ice Age - human remains and an associated residential structure at the Upward Sun River site located along the upper Tanana River in central Alaska. These discoveries are significant first finds for the eastern Beringia region, which encompasses Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Residential structures and human burials from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene are rare. None are previously known for the North American Subarctic and Arctic. The remains of a child who was cremated and buried, and the nearby...

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Photo of transportable array station at Toolik Lake
EarthScope , a multidisciplinary earth sciences research program funded by the NSF, is developing plans to deploy its Transportable Array across Alaska beginning in late 2013. The Transportable Array is a suite of 400 broadband seismic stations, which are deployed across a large-scale grid. The observatory stations are placed in a wide variety of settings and operate for two years to record continuous high-quality seismic data with precision timing. As planning continues for deployment in Alaska, the broader scientific community is encouraged to consider possible collaboration opportunities...

Data Management

ACADIS banner logo
Advanced Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service ( ACADIS ), the NSF Data Management program for arctic sciences (see: NSF’s New Data Management System for Arctic Research Programs ), is approaching its first anniversary of providing services for the arctic research community. This is a collaborative project between the National Snow and Ice Data Center ( NSIDC ), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research ( UCAR ) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research ( NCAR ). ACADIS data experts have spent the year expanding existing data archive infrastructure and services to support all investigators funded through the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) Division of Arctic Sciences (ARC).

Science Education News

Arctic Visiting Speakers
The Arctic Visiting Speakers Program (AVS), funded by NSF’s Division of Arctic Sciences and developed and managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS), provides small grants to arctic experts to share their knowledge in communities where they might not otherwise connect. Speakers cover a wide range of topics and address a variety of audiences including communities and the general public, university audiences, K-12 students, and under-served populations.

Science Policy News

The Arctic Forum 2012 convened on 1 May in Washington, D.C. bringing together a diverse group of scientists, decision makers, and stakeholders to advance dialogue on several key arctic science issues. The forum was sponsored by ARCUS, with funding from the NSF's Arctic Science Division (for scientific speakers) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, and was part of the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) Science Policy Conference 2012 .

National Science Foundation News

National Science Foundation
A new funding opportunity entitled Arctic Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES) has been released to support investigations focused on understanding resiliency and sustainability in the high north. This solicitation is released under the joint auspices of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management , Environmental Protection Agency , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service , U.S. Geological Survey , and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. ArcSEES is an interagency and international program encompassing a wide array of...

Interagency News

The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) has released the draft Arctic Research Plan for public review and comment. The plan is available in PDF format and can be downloaded from the National Science Foundation's IARPC website . Comments on the plan may be submitted through Friday, 22 June 2012. For complete instructions on how to submit comments, please see the bottom of this article.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

U.S. Arctic Research Commission members in Montreal 2012.
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission ( USARC ) and Canadian Polar Commission ( CPC ) met in Montreal on 27 April 2012 at the conclusion of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2012 conference, " From Knowledge to Action ." This was the first joint meeting of the two commissions in over a decade. The primary goals of the meeting were to explore common issues between the commissions and to identify opportunities for enhanced cooperation and coordination. CPC Chairman Bernard Funston and USARC Chair Fran Ulmer provided introductory remarks outlining the mandates and responsibilities of their...

Polar Research Board

Witness the Arctic | 2012 | Article | Image
In April 2012, the Polar Research Board ( PRB ) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a report on the Lessons and Legacies of International Polar Year 2007-2008. It reports that the International Polar Year (IPY) was an intense, coordinated field campaign of observations, research, and analysis that led to numerous scientific advances and discoveries. IPY engaged the public to communicate the relevance of polar research to the entire planet, strengthened connections with the Indigenous people of the Arctic, and established new observational networks. The report explains how...

International News

International Polar Foundation
The International Polar Foundation has released a final report from the Arctic Futures Symposium 2011 held in Brussels, Belgium. Arctic Futures is an annual event that brings together European Union (EU) and foreign policymakers, scientists, industry representatives, indigenous peoples, and academics to discuss key issues facing those living and working in the arctic region. Speakers at the 2011 symposium shared perspectives from Arctic Council nations and gave presentations on science and cooperation in the Arctic, predicting climate impacts on the Arctic, natural resource exploitation in...

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

Susan E. Fox
2012 represents a signal year for ARCUS. After a three-year hiatus, the organization successfully partnered with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) to present the Arctic Forum as part of the inaugural Science Policy Conference. The Forum brought together polar scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss gaps and priority needs for arctic scientific information. Over 350 people attended the two-day conference that included a science communication workshop, a reception on Capitol Hill, and an opening plenary presentation by ARCUS President Vera Alexander.

A Note from the ARCUS President

Vera Alexander
Last month, ARCUS held its annual membership meeting in Washington DC, along with a face-to-face Board meeting and retreat, all in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Science Policy Conference 2012 . AGU very generously encouraged us to include the Arctic Forum in that venue, with an emphasis on emerging arctic policy. Our interest and involvement in policy recognizes the changing Arctic, which produces multiple needs and challenges. Since our members for the most part are academic institutions, our focus is primarily on the scientific information needed to inform strategy...


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 [at] arcus.org.

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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