New SEARCH Structure and Activities

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Update

The major news for SEARCH since the Witness issue earlier this year is that the proposal to the NSF Division of Polar Programs’ Arctic Sciences Section to develop a new SEARCH structure and activities has been funded. The new structure and activities have several departures from SEARCH’s focus in the past. Key changes include:

  • A central vision of “Knowledge to Action”: scientific understanding of arctic environmental change to help society understand and respond to a rapidly changing Arctic;
  • A move from the general organizing themes of observing, understanding, and responding to focused science themes (listed below);
  • Change from an all-volunteer committee structure (formerly Panels) to Action Teams—with funded support—that correspond to the science themes;
  • A suite of synthesis activities that will feed into “Arctic Futures 2050” scenarios;
  • Support for a full time SEARCH Executive Director; and
  • A formalized organizational structure and process through a Terms of Reference.

The science themes and corresponding Action Team leads are:

  • Improve Understanding, Advance Prediction, and Explore Consequences of Changing Arctic Sea Ice (Action Team co-leads: Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University and Henry Huntington, Huntington Consulting)
  • Document and Understand How Degradation of Near-Surface Permafrost Will Affect Arctic and Global Systems (Action Team lead: Ted Schuur, Northern Arizona University)
  • Improve Predictions of Future Land-ice Loss and Impacts on Sea Level (Action Team co-leads: Ted Scambos, University of Colorado Boulder and Fiamma Straneo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

As a first step in implementing activities under the new grant, SEARCH held a small kick-off meeting in September in Boulder, Colorado. The outcomes of this meeting included:

The agenda, participant list, presentation files, and background readings from the meeting are available at:

Current SEARCH activities are focused on finalizing the Terms of Reference, populating the Action Teams, developing a scope and charge for an AON-focused committee under the new structure, and finalizing the details of Executive Director position in preparation for a position announcement in January 2015.

SEARCH at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

A SEARCH Town Hall meeting will be held Monday, 15 December 2014 at 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Moscone West, Room 2005, in conjunction with the AGU 2014 Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The Town Hall will:

  • Provide updates on the new SEARCH funding and activities, including those related to SEARCH five-year science goals and the Arctic Observing Network.
  • Discuss how researchers and others can participate in SEARCH.
  • Address questions and concerns.

Members of the Arctic science, education, and policy communities, are invited to attend. SEARCH particularly encourages students and young investigators to participate. Refreshments will be served.

More information about SEARCH events at the AGU Fall Meeting is available at:

Arctic Observing Network (AON) Position Paper

SEARCH circulated a draft position paper on the design and implementation of an integrated AON. Craig Lee, chair of the SEARCH Observing Change Panel (OCP) led the drafting of the paper, with input from the OCP, the SEARCH SSC, and the SEARCH Project Office at ARCUS. The four-page paper represents a synthesis of discussions within SEARCH over the last year and builds on past SEARCH-AON community events and workshops. Key issues addressed in the paper include governance, network integration, and sustained funding.

The draft paper is available at: and will be discussed at the SEARCH Town Hall Meeting at AGU.

Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN)

The SIPN project, a contribution to SEARCH, completed a successful season of the Sea Ice Outlook (SIO), which provides an open process to share predictions and ideas on the September minimum arctic sea ice extent. The SIO features reports in June, July, and August containing a variety of perspectives on arctic sea ice—from observations of current conditions, to advanced numerical models, to qualitative perspectives from citizen scientists. This year, there were 88 submissions for the SIO reports. With the move of the SIO from a volunteer effort to one funded as part of the SIPN project, the SIO reports this year were a highly collaborative writing process that incorporated input from a wider variety of researchers and provided a more thorough assessment of the individual SIO contributions.

Earlier this fall, SIPN held an open webinar on post-season analysis of the 2014 SIO, including processes that influenced sea ice melt this year and a review of the differing approaches to predicting the sea ice minimum extent. Seventy participants attended the webinar and the webinar archive is available at:

SIPN also convened a Sea Ice Outlook Action Team to work with SIPN leadership to develop a SIO post-season report to assess the physical processes that factored into the sea ice dynamics during the 2014 melt season, as well as a discussion of the various SIO methods. The Action Team members are listed at: A draft post-season SIO report was circulated via the SIPN Mailing List for input. The draft report can be found at: and a final report will be circulated in in December.

SIPN will hold a meeting at the AGU Fall Meeting on Wednesday, 17 December from 12:30-2:00 pm. This year's SIPN AGU meeting will focus on issues related to predicting sea ice with methods that are sensitive to initial conditions. Specifically, the goal of this meeting is to set up a common protocol for experiments to test sensitivity to initial conditions in sea ice forecasts of summer 2015. More information about the meeting can be found at:

A SIPN poster, "Arctic Sea Ice Predictability and the Sea Ice Prediction Network" (Helen Wiggins and Julienne Stroeve) will be presented on Thursday, 18 December in Moscone West Poster Hall (Session C43-0393 at 1:40-6:00 pm). See the poster abstract here.

In addition, SIPN developed a list of sea ice-related presentations is a tool to help attendees of AGU 2014 find sea ice talks and posters. The list is available here.

For More Information

For more information about SEARCH, see the SEARCH website or contact Hajo Eicken, U. of Alaska Fairbanks (SEARCH SSC Chair) at hajo.eicken [at] or Helen Wiggins, ARCUS (SEARCH Project Office) at helen [at]

Updates on SEARCH are also provided through ARCUS’ twitter account: @ArcticResearch.