International Arctic Research Center

Fairbanks, AK, United States

International Arctic Research Center

Fairbanks, AK, United States
Time filter
Source Type

News Article | April 17, 2017

A University of Alaska Fairbanks study has determined that warmer water migrating from the Atlantic Ocean is a surprisingly powerful contributor to Arctic sea ice decline. Research led by Igor Polyakov, a professor at UAF's International Arctic Research Center and College of Natural Science and Mathematics, has found that Atlantic currents contribute to sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean at a rate comparable to warming air temperatures. "This is a very important step toward a seasonal ice-free Arctic," said Polyakov. The findings, outlined in the journal Science's April 6 edition, provide a greater understanding of the complex dynamics that contribute to sea ice melt. Co-authors of the paper include UAF's Andrey Pnyushkov, Robert Rember, Till Baumann and Vladimir Ivanov, as well as collaborators from Russia, Canada, Poland, Germany, Norway and the United States. The Arctic Ocean has experienced dramatic reductions in sea ice in the past decade. The Eastern Eurasian Basin has had almost no ice by the end of each summer since 2011. Circulating Atlantic waters have been considered a small factor in that decline, due to a phenomenon known as stratification. In the Arctic, warmer and denser water from the Atlantic has normally remained beneath a colder and lighter surface layer. The greater the difference in density between the layers, the less likely they are to mix. Without mixing, the heat from the warmer water can't come into contact with sea ice at the surface. That has changed. Data collected by Polyakov and other researchers during the Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System project showed increased mixing in the Eastern Eurasian Basin, a major pathway for Atlantic water into the Arctic Ocean. That means more heat is being transferred to the Arctic sea ice on the surface. Even before analyzing the data, the research team noticed that something was changing. They depend on solid sea ice to deploy their research buoys. During the 2015 expedition aboard the icebreaking research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov, much of the sea ice was too rotten to support the buoys, Polyakov said. "For the first time, we had a problem finding a suitable ice floe to deploy buoys. We spent several days trying to find such a floe." NABOS sends comprehensive research cruises through the Arctic Ocean every two years. The NABOS project is currently planning its 2017 research cruise. ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Nate Bauer, 907-474-7413, Igor Polyakov,, 907-474-2686; Eddy Carmack with Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Institute of Ocean Sciences,; Jeff Richardson, UAF University Relations, 907-474-6284, NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos are available for download online at http://news. . View the full paper at http://science. .

News Article | May 12, 2017

The US will consider its interests first as it reviews its climate change policy, the secretary of state says. Rex Tillerson told a meeting of the eight Arctic nations in Alaska that the US would not rush to make a decision and would consider their views. President Donald Trump has expressed doubts over the human role in climate change and has said he may pull the US out of the Paris Accord to fight it. Meanwhile, other Arctic countries have called for a cut on greenhouse gases. They signed an agreement which stated there was a need for urgent global action. Climate change was the biggest issue at the biennial meeting of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, which was overshadowed by the uncertainties over Mr Trump's policy. Mr Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, told the meeting that the administration was reviewing how it would approach climate change. "We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns," he said. "We're not going to rush to make a decision. We're going to work to make the right decision for the United States." Mr Trump is to decide whether the US will leave or reduce its commitments to the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which was negotiated by around 200 nations and signed in 2015. An announcement is expected after a trip to Europe later this month. The joint agreement by the Arctic Council mentioned the Paris accord only in a passing reference, which noted the deal's entry into force and implementation. But the text did not recommit its members to meet the pledges made. Some climate scientists here in Alaska say they are pleasantly surprised by the relatively tough language on climate change adopted by all eight Arctic Council nations including the United States. The thrust of the text, argues Prof John Walsh, chief scientist at the University of Alaska's International Arctic Research Center, actually echoes the approach of the Obama administration. The acceptance of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) and pollutants (like black carbon and aerosols) appears significant. But a couple of things are missing. Although the logic of the statement insists that human activity is causing climate change, the word "human" is not actually present. Nor is there a commitment to implement the landmark Paris accord, an omission which is causing alarm among environmentalists. Not only that, but many of the Trump administration's early policy decisions prioritised economic growth over environmental protection, and Mr Tillerson continues to insist that American climate policy remains under review. So, in short, it is far too early to conclude that the White House has suddenly been persuaded by mainstream scientific opinion on global warming - and with US politics in astonishing flux, the Fairbanks Declaration may be no more than a holding statement.

Partain J.L.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Alden S.,Alaska Interagency Coordination Center | Bhatt U.S.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Bieniek P.A.,International Arctic Research Center | And 10 more authors.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society | Year: 2016

The 2015 Alaska fire season burned the second largest number of acres since records began in 1940. Human-induced climate change may have increased the risk of a fire season of this severity by 34%-60%. © 2016 American Meteorological Society.

Lantuit H.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Overduin P.P.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Couture N.,Geological Survey of Canada | Wetterich S.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | And 20 more authors.
Estuaries and Coasts | Year: 2012

Arctic permafrost coasts are sensitive to changing climate. The lengthening open water season and the increasing open water area are likely to induce greater erosion and threaten community and industry infrastructure as well as dramatically change nutrient pathways in the near-shore zone. The shallow, mediterranean Arctic Ocean is likely to be strongly affected by changes in currently poorly observed arctic coastal dynamics. We present a geomorphological classification scheme for the arctic coast, with 101,447 km of coastline in 1,315 segments. The average rate of erosion for the arctic coast is 0.5 m year -1 with high local and regional variability. Highest rates are observed in the Laptev, East Siberian, and Beaufort Seas. Strong spatial variability in associated database bluff height, ground carbon and ice content, and coastline movement highlights the need to estimate the relative importance of shifting coastal fluxes to the Arctic Ocean at multiple spatial scales. © 2011 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

Janout M.A.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Aksenov Y.,UK National Oceanography Center | Holemann J.A.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Rabe B.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | And 9 more authors.
Journal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans | Year: 2015

Siberian river water is a first-order contribution to the Arctic freshwater budget, with the Ob, Yenisey, and Lena supplying nearly half of the total surface freshwater flux. However, few details are known regarding where, when, and how the freshwater transverses the vast Siberian shelf seas. This paper investigates the mechanism, variability, and pathways of the fresh Kara Sea outflow through Vilkitsky Strait toward the Laptev Sea. We utilize a high-resolution ocean model and recent shipboard observations to characterize the freshwater-laden Vilkitsky Strait Current (VSC), and shed new light on the little-studied region between the Kara and Laptev Seas, characterized by harsh ice conditions, contrasting water masses, straits, and a large submarine canyon. The VSC is 10-20 km wide, surface intensified, and varies seasonally (maximum from August to March) and interannually. Average freshwater (volume) transport is 500 ± 120 km3 a-1 (0.53 ± 0.08 Sv), with a baroclinic flow contribution of 50-90%. Interannual transport variability is explained by a storage-release mechanism, where blocking-favorable summer winds hamper the outflow and cause accumulation of freshwater in the Kara Sea. The year following a blocking event is characterized by enhanced transports driven by a baroclinic flow along the coast that is set up by increased freshwater volumes. Eventually, the VSC merges with a slope current and provides a major pathway for Eurasian river water toward the western Arctic along the Eurasian continental slope. Kara (and Laptev) Sea freshwater transport is not correlated with the Arctic Oscillation, but rather driven by regional summer pressure patterns. © 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Bhatt U.S.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Walker D.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Raynolds M.K.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Bieniek P.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | And 6 more authors.
Remote Sensing | Year: 2013

Vegetation productivity trends for the Arctic tundra are updated for the 1982-2011 period and examined in the context of land surface temperatures and coastal sea ice. Understanding mechanistic links between vegetation and climate parameters contributes to model advancements that are necessary for improving climate projections. This study employs remote sensing data: Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) Maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (MaxNDVI), Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) sea-ice concentrations, and Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) radiometric surface temperatures. Spring sea ice is declining everywhere except in the Bering Sea, while summer open water area is increasing throughout the Arctic. Summer Warmth Index (SWI-sum of degree months above freezing) trends from 1982 to 2011 are positive around Beringia but are negative over Eurasia from the Barents to the Laptev Seas and in parts of northern Canada. Eastern North America continues to show increased summer warmth and a corresponding steady increase in MaxNDVI. Positive MaxNDVI trends from 1982 to 2011 are generally weaker compared to trends from 1982-2008. So to better understand the changing trends, break points in the time series were quantified using the Breakfit algorithm. The most notable break points identify declines in SWI since 2003 in Eurasia and 1998 in Western North America. The Time Integrated NDVI (TI-NDVI, sum of the biweekly growing season values of MaxNDVI) has declined since 2005 in Eurasia, consistent with SWI declines. Summer (June-August) sea level pressure (slp) averages from 1999-2011 were compared to those from 1982-1998 to reveal higher slp over Greenland and the western Arctic and generally lower pressure over the continental Arctic in the recent period. This suggests that the large-scale circulation is likely a key contributor to the cooler temperatures over Eurasia through increased summer cloud cover and warming in Eastern North America from more cloud-free skies. © 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Timokhov L.,Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute | Ashik I.,Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute | Dmitrenko I.,Leibniz Institute of Marine Science | Hoelemann J.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | And 4 more authors.
Polarforschung | Year: 2011

Large-scale features of Arctic Ocean temperature and salinity distributions observed during 2007-2009 are described and discussed in the context of historical observation in order to document long-term variations. Oceanographic observations carried out in the frame of the International Polar Year (IPY 2007/2008) demonstrated unique conditions in the Arctic Ocean and seas during that period. For example, analyses of upper ocean temperature and salinity patterns 2007-2009 revealed an apparent frontal zone separating the Eurasian and Canadian Basins. We found that after 2007 the temperature and salinity trends of the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean followed the same trajectory as in the past, however their regional distribution and intensity changed. The average salinity in the surface 5-50 m layer of the Eurasian Basin in winter of 2007-2009 was higher than in the 1950s and 1970s, but did not exceed the average salinity in the early 1990s. In the Canadian Basin, the upper ocean salinity in 2007-2009 was much lower than in the 1950s-1960s. Volumetric analysis of water masses demonstrated a general increase of volume of the intermediate (150-900 m depth range) Atlantic Water (AW) temperature, with substantial rise of the upper boundary of the AW. The thermal expansion of AW in the Arctic Basin is unique during the last 20 years. The most distinct variations of the hydrographic conditions were observed in the Canadian Basin. In general, the maximum of the AW temperature decreased in 2009 relative to 2007 and the upper boundary became shallower by 50 to 150 m the Eurasian Basin. The AW salinity in 2007-2009 was not exceptional during the IPY. Observations in the deeper layers indicated that the bottom waters have become slightly warmer and less saline.

Ver Hoef J.M.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Ver Hoef J.M.,International Arctic Research Center | Jansen J.K.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics | Year: 2015

Monitoring plant and animal populations is an important goal for both academic research and management of natural resources. Successful management of populations often depends on obtaining estimates of their mean or total over a region. The basic problem considered in this paper is the estimation of a total from a sample of plots containing count data, but the plot placements are spatially irregular and non-randomized. Our application had counts from thousands of irregularly spaced aerial photo images. We used change-of-support methods to model counts in images as a realization of an inhomogeneous Poisson process that used spatial basis functions to model the spatial intensity surface. The method was very fast and took only a few seconds for thousands of images. The fitted intensity surface was integrated to provide an estimate from all unsampled areas, which is added to the observed counts. The proposed method also provides a finite area correction factor to variance estimation. The intensity surface from an inhomogeneous Poisson process tends to be too smooth for locally clustered points, typical of animal distributions, so we introduce several new overdispersion estimators due to poor performance of the classic one. We used simulated data to examine estimation bias and to investigate several variance estimators with overdispersion. A real example is given of harbor seal counts from aerial surveys in an Alaskan glacial fjord. © 2014, The Author(s).

Rogers T.S.,International Arctic Research Center | Rogers T.S.,352 College Road | Walsh J.E.,International Arctic Research Center | Walsh J.E.,352 College Road | And 4 more authors.
Cryosphere | Year: 2013

There is an emerging need for regional applications of sea ice projections to provide more accuracy and greater detail to scientists, national, state and local planners, and other stakeholders. The present study offers a prototype for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary study to bridge observational data, climate model simulations, and user needs. The study's first component is an observationally based evaluation of Arctic sea ice trends during 1980-2008, with an emphasis on seasonal and regional differences relative to the overall pan-Arctic trend. Regional sea ice loss has varied, with a significantly larger decline of winter maximum (January-March) extent in the Atlantic region than in other sectors. A lead-lag regression analysis of Atlantic sea ice extent and ocean temperatures indicates that reduced sea ice extent is associated with increased Atlantic Ocean temperatures. Correlations between the two variables are greater when ocean temperatures lag rather than lead sea ice. The performance of 13 global climate models is evaluated using three metrics to compare sea ice simulations with the observed record. We rank models over the pan-Arctic domain and regional quadrants and synthesize model performance across several different studies. The best performing models project reduced ice cover across key access routes in the Arctic through 2100, with a lengthening of seasons for marine operations by 1-3 months. This assessment suggests that the Northwest and Northeast Passages hold potential for enhanced marine access to the Arctic in the future, including shipping and resource development opportunities. © 2013 Author(s).

Loading International Arctic Research Center collaborators
Loading International Arctic Research Center collaborators