Witness the Arctic

Volume 17
Number 1
5 March 2013

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

A SEARCH AGU Town Hall was held at the AGU fall meeting to provide a forum for open exchange on SEARCH activities and future priorities. Specific topics included the new SEARCH five-year goals and the Arctic Observing Network (AON). Approximately 80 members of the arctic science community attended the Town Hall, and input received during the discussion was used by the SEARCH Science Steering Committee to adjust SEARCH goals and planning. More information about the Town Hall and other SEARCH events at AGU is available here .

Arctic Social Sciences Program

Witness the Arctic | 2013 | ArticFigure 1: Demographic patterns in knole | Image
In a recent survey of the U.S. general public, a team of researchers led by Lawrence Hamilton at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute investigated the correlation between climate beliefs and the assimilation of science information. This research, funded in part by NSF, found complex patterns in which perceptions about arctic trends could sometimes be a consequence of general beliefs rather than a simple function of science literacy. These findings have implications for science education and outreach efforts, which often aim to communicate the basic information that underlies...
Excavation of house on theWitness the Arctic | 2013 | Article | Image
Researchers working at Cape Espenberg, Alaska recently recovered cast metal objects apparently derived from eastern Asia. These objects, the first such items to be recovered in a prehistoric Alaskan context, were recovered during summer of 2011, which was the third and final field season of the NSF-funded project led by John F. Hoffecker, principal investigator, and Owen K. Mason, co-principal investigator, of the University of Colorado at Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). Metallurgical analysis, completed in late 2012 by Harold Kory Cooper at Purdue University,...

National Science Foundation News

On 27 February 2013, NSF Director Subra Suresh issued Notice Number 133 entitled "Important Notice to Presidents of Universities and Colleges and Heads of other National Science Foundation Awardee Organizations" regarding the impact of a FY 2013 Sequestration Order on NSF Awards. The text of this notice follows:
Marco Tedesco, recently appointed Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program Director at NSF's Division of Polar Programs, aims to lay the foundation of an infrastructure that will be as revolutionary for polar science as the coming of water and electric power was for our cities.The Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program, in partnership with the Division of Cyberinfrastructure, is part of the cross-foundation initiative: Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21). This initiative seeks to provide a comprehensive, integrated, secure, and sustainable cyberinfrastructure (...
National Science Foundation
Arctic Sciences (ARC) Division Director Simon Stephenson and Arctic Natural Sciences Program Director Hedy Edmonds led a Town Hall meeting on 5 December 2012 during the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. The Town Hall provided a forum for open exchange on NSF activities and directions. Stephenson and Edmonds updated attendees on recent ARC developments including staffing changes, the organizational realignment at NSF, budget overview, funding opportunities, and related issues.

Interagency News

Arctic terrestrial ecosystem
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced release of the five-year Arctic Research Plan, which was developed by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) . The announcement, as posted by Brendan P. Kelly and Simon N. Stephenson on 19 February 2013, follows: Working Together to Understand and Predict Arctic Change
Photo Courtesy Jackie Richter-Menge.
The Arctic Report Card is an annually updated, peer-reviewed source for concise environmental information on the current state of the Arctic relative to historical records. It is intended for a wide audience including scientists, teachers, students, decision-makers, and the general public. Support for the Arctic Report Card is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office through the Arctic Research Program . History and Purpose

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

USARC Commissioner Benton
The Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 established the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) , which is headed by seven Commissioners appointed by the President. The Commission includes four members from academic or research institutions; two members from private industry undertaking commercial activities in the Arctic; and one member from among the Indigenous residents of the U.S. Arctic. The Director of NSF serves as an ex-officio eighth member. Commissioners are appointed to four-year terms. Chair Fran Ulmer was appointed in March 2011. USARC Commissioner David Benton, appointed by...
U.S. Arctic Research Commission logo
The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), an independent federal agency created by the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, is charged with recommending arctic research policy to the President and Congress and reporting to Congress on the progress of the Executive Branch in reaching goals set by the Commission. The Commission holds business meetings and conducts public hearings in Alaska and elsewhere to receive input. Major recommendations of the Commission are published in the Commission's biennial Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research , as well as the Commission's Special Report series.

Polar Research Board

Figure 1 Arctic sea ice extent, March and September 2012
In November 2012, the Polar Research Board (PRB) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences issued the report, Seasonal to Decadal Predictions of Arctic Sea Ice: Challenges and Strategies , which explores major challenges in sea ice prediction, and identifies methods, observations, and technologies that might advance capabilities to predict the extent of sea ice.

International News

AOS 2013 logo
The Arctic Observing Summit (AOS) is a high-level summit that aims to provide community-driven and science-based guidance for the design, implementation, coordination, and operation of an international network of arctic observing systems to be sustained over several decades. AOS is led by the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC) as part of the implementation of the observing change component of the ISAC Science Plan. AOS 2013, scheduled to convene 30 April - 2 May 2013 in Vancouver, Canada, is the first in a planned series of biennial summits. AOS 2013 registration is now open.

A Note from the ARCUS President

Witness the Arctic | 2013 | Article | ImageVera Alexander, President, ARCUS Boar
Arctic marine research has suffered over the past decades because the U.S. academic fleet, operated by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) , has never operated an ice capable vessel. This has not been the case for the Southern Ocean, which always has had both supply and research capabilities. Nor was it the fault of enthusiastic scientists. For example, Dr. Robert Elsner, now emeritus professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), has pursued this dream since the 1970s. He kept a log of all ice-capable vessels in the world, was familiar on a first hand...


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.


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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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Executive Director: Susan E. Fox

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren, Helen Wiggins, Kristina Creek, and Judy Fahnestock

Contributors: V. Alexander, L. Brown, H. K. Cooper, H. Edmonds, H. Eicken, J. Farrell, L. Hamilton, J. F. Hoffecker, M. O. Jeffries, B. P. Kelly, O. Mason, M. S. Murray, J. A. Richter-Menge, S. Stephenson, S. Suresh, M. Tedesco, H. Wiggins

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.