NOAA Arctic Theme Page

NOAA Activities in support of the
International Polar Year (2007-2008)


More Information

NOAA began planning for IPY activities in the fall of 2004. Initial ideas were packaged into 11 broader themes and submitted to the IPY International Program Office in January 2005 as “expressions of intent.” Over the next few months, the IPY International Program Office encouraged scientists to prepare more collaborative proposals, resulting in around 200 “integrated projects” that now define the international effort for the IPY. This document summarizes those activities to which NOAA expects to contribute and updates progress on expected NOAA activities during FY 2007-2009 related to IPY.


1. Ocean Exploration in Polar Regions

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration (OE) may support multiple projects in both the Arctic and Antarctic in conjunction with the International Polar Year (IPY). OE solicited specific projects for IPY via Federal Register announcements in calendar years 2005 and 2006. OE also expects to solicit IPY-related projects during the calendar year 2007 Federal Register notice. Ocean Exploration, together with the NOAA Arctic Research Program and the Russian Academy of Sciences, plan to facilitate an expedition to the Pacific Arctic in 2008, as part of the ongoing RUSALCA (Russian American Long-term Census of the Arctic) program.

Progress: Proposals have been received for the RUSALCA 2008 expedition and are being submitted to both mail and panel reviews.


2. Causes and Impacts of Recent Changes in the Pacific Arctic

Unprecedented minima of sea ice area have occurred in the Pacific Arctic during the four most recent summers. Summer 2003 and 2004 brought record forest fires and drought to eastern Siberia and Alaska after a decade of warm springtime temperature anomalies. In surrounding seas there has been a northward shift of ice-dependent marine animals. Many Pacific Arctic changes are continuing, despite the observation that climate indices such as the Arctic Oscillation were negative or neutral for six of the last nine years. The Pacific Arctic may be having a larger role in shaping the persistence of Arctic change than has been previously recognized. We will work with our partners to carry out observations in this area to measure movement of water through the Bering Strait, gather observations about physical change in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and study impacts of physical change on marine ecosystems in this region. Bering Strait mooring programs will be conducted, as well as mooring and ship-board studies in the eastern Bering Sea.

Progress: Ocean observation activities – NOAA is involved in the International Arctic Ocean Observing System (iAOOS) and the Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic Seas (ESSAS) coordinated IPY projects.

  • An existing US-Russia collaboration (RUSALCA) is focused on long-term observations of fluxes through the Bering Strait. This effort began in 2004 and is expected to continue through and beyond the IPY period. This project is funded by NOAA's Arctic Reserch Program, with co-funding by the Office of Ocean Exploration. The RUSALCA project also is examining variability in ocean climate in the northern Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea and the associated impacts on the marine ecosystem. A major international effort is being planned for summer 2008 involving U.S., Russia, China, Korea, Japan, and Canada. A planning meeting was held in October in China, and a follow-up meeting is planned for April 2007 in Korea. Collaboration is maintained with other US-funded projects in the region (NSF, DOI, NPRB) through the SEARCH program, and international collaboration is conducted through the Pacific Arctic Group of the International Arctic Science Committee.
  • Through its Climate and Ecosystems Program, NOAA will conduct ocean climate observations in the Bering Sea to evaluate impacts of long-term ocean climate variability and change on important living marine resources. This work is closely coordinated with the NSF BEST program and the NPRB efforts in the Bering Sea.
  • NOAA, in partnership with the DOD/COE/CRREL and the IABP, supports deployment of ice mass balance and other ice-tethered buoys to observe changes in Arctic sea ice.

3. Polar Atmospheric Observatories and Field Campaigns

As part of the IPY project “International Arctic System for Observing the Atmosphere” (IASOA), a system of strategically located, long-term Atmospheric Observatories will be developed around the Arctic to carry out both routine measurements made at meteorological stations and intensive measurements at the surface and through the depth of the atmosphere. Among the quantities we expect to measure are solar radiation, aerosols, air chemistry, trace gases, cloud properties, water vapor, ozone, temperatures, winds, precipitation, surface albedo, and stratospheric properties. These measurements are essential to calibrate and validate satellite sensors and to improve the reliability of climate models. The Atmospheric Observatory partnership includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, and China. NOAA’s existing baseline observatories at Barrow, Alaska and South Pole will continue to focus on measurements of trace gases and aerosols. The flask-sampling program has 15 polar stations that collect atmospheric samples for trace gas measurement. In the Arctic, a new observatory at Eureka, Canada will operate during the IPY, and the observatory at Barrow will continue. The observatory at Tiksi, Russia will be partially operational. These three observatories will focus on measurements of clouds, radiation, and trace gases.

NOAA/NCDC also plans to install a Climate Reference Network (CRN) site configuration at the Russian Arctic observing site in Tiksi (dependent on final FY07 budget).

Progress: Recent accomplishments include:

  • In July 2006, a new atmospheric observatory was opened in Eureka, Canada to complement the existing NOAA and DOE observatory in Barrow Alaska. NOAA and NSF have provided instrumentation at the Eureka Observatory, as has the Canadian Network for Detection of Atmospheric Change (CANDAC). Meteorological Service Canada provides much of the basic infrastructure at the observatory.
  • A similar atmospheric observatory is under development at Tiksi, Russia, with support from NOAA, NSF and Roshydromet. A new weather building supported by NSF was installed in October 2006. NSF intends to install a “clean air facility” at Tiksi in summer 2007, and NOAA will provide samplers and sensors at this facility. Both Finland and Norway are expected to join the international consortium at Tiksi.
  • Preliminary discussions have been held regarding atmospheric observations at Ny Alesund. Both coordination of existing observations and installation of a few additional instruments will be needed to create a complete observatory there.
  • An IASOA planning meeting was held in Toronto in summer 2006.

4. Polar Stratospheric Ozone Depletion Observations

As a part of the International Geophysical Year in 1957, column ozone measurements were initiated at the South Pole using Dobson spectrometers. In 1985, the annual stratospheric ozone depletion over Antarctica was identified. In less than 5 years it was proven that this “ozone hole” was caused by human emitted chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Arctic stratospheric ozone changes, though lesser in magnitude than the Antarctic ozone hole, are by no means of lesser importance because of the high density of human population in the northern hemisphere. Key studies will be undertaken in the Arctic to monitor these changes.

Progress: Routine observations of ozone are ongoing at Barrow and South Pole.

5. Antarctic Living Marine Resource (AMLR) Survey

The principal objective of the NOAA AMLR research program is to collect the scientific information needed to detect, monitor, and predict the effects of harvesting and associated activities on target, dependent, and related species and populations of Antarctic marine living resources and the ecosystem(s) of which they are a part.

Progress: A ship-based research program is planned for FY07, although it will be limited to 35 days because of budgetary constraints.


6. Short-term Arctic Predictability (STAP)

This scientific study will explore the variability, and associated predictability of weather, sea ice, ocean wave, and land surface processes in the Arctic region in the 3-90 days time range, with special emphasis on improving forecast guidance for high impact events in the 3-14 day lead time range. NOAA will complete a study of northwest Alaskan coastal waves during the IPY. NOAA will also participate in sea ice studies at both poles aimed at improving measurement of ice thickness and forecasting. The NOAA THORPEX program is expected to introduce forecast products to improve weather and intraseasonal forecasts for the Arctic.

Progress: Recent accomplishments include:

  • The North American Ensemble Forecasting System (NAEFS) was implemented at NCEP. NAEFS will contribute to improved weather forecasts in the Arctic by providing a basis for assigning confidence levels to these forecasts..\
  • NCEP is working under a bilateral agreement with Russia to provide funding to enhance radiosonde launches over Siberia. This enhancement is important to fill an upstream (to Alaska) gap in upper air atmospheric measurements and may help improve numerical weather prediction in the Arctic.
  • Plans are emerging to move the operation of the NOAA Gulfstream IV (G IV) during the NWS Winter Storm Reconnaissance (WSR) farther west from where it is normally operated in order to provide upstream targeting of sensitive areas to improve forecasting of winter storms that impact Alaska. This special targeting will occur in the winter of 2008.

7. Advances in Satellite Products and their Use in Numerical Weather Prediction

Spatially comprehensive observations of the atmosphere in the data-sparse polar regions significantly and positively impact high latitude numerical weather predictions. In addition, errors in model forecasts for the high latitudes often propagate to the mid-latitudes, implying that improvements to high latitude forecasts will result in better mid-latitude forecasts. These findings provide the motivation to improve our ability to measure the polar regions with satellites and to expand the use of these data in numerical weather prediction systems. NOAA will participate in IPY projects to improve the application of satellite sensors to environmental problems in the polar regions.
Progress: Dependent on Congressional approval of the 2007 President's budget.

8. Arctic Climate Modeling

The general goal of this project is to improve predictions of the Arctic environment on timescales ranging from seasonal to climate change. Thus, our research will focus on analyzing and modeling the physical processes and connections between the Arctic and the rest of the globe. NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory will continue to improve global climate models that including polar processes.

Progress: Proposals to incorporate ecosystem information into Arctic climate models have been solicited and reviewed. Funding of these proposals will depend on Congressional approval of the 2007 President's budget.


9. NOAA’s Data, Information, and Change Detection Strategy for the IPY

NOAA's fundamental data management responsibilities will be to securely archive IPY datasets and ensure that these and relevant polar data are easily accessible for current and future users. NOAA will utilize the existing World Data Center (WDC) System and the NOAA National Data Centers as a clearinghouse and facilitator for data-management issues and will work with IPY participants to ensure that International Council for Science/World Meteorological Organization (ICSU/WMO) IPY Data Committee guidelines are followed. NOAA will also ensure that international standards such as the Open Archival Information System Reference Model and the ISO19115 metadata standards are met.

NOAA intends to build and maintain a pan-Arctic view of climate variability and change that will serve decision makers with information products. These range from baseline atlases against which future assessments can be carried out, to the Near Realtime Arctic Change Indicator Website, where information on the present state of Arctic ecosystems and climate is given in historical context. NOAA data centers will assist scientists to archive their IPY data. NOAA will continue to acquire historical data and present it on the Arctic Change Indicator Website to describe the state of the Arctic climate over the past 150 years, allowing a better context for new data collected during the IPY.

Progress: Climate Data Analysis and Assessment

  • An Arctic Climate Change Detection project is being conducted to collect and analyze long-term data on oceanic, atmospheric, and terrestrial variables. Recent accomplishments include acquisition of radiosonde data from eight Russian Arctic weather stations from the 1930s forward that will be used to more completely analyze the period of warming seen in the Arctic in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • NOAA supported production of a “State of the Arctic Report” that analyzed pan-Arctic physical climate data. Authorship included both U.S. and foreign scientists. The report demonstrates most Arctic climate trends noted in the ACIA report have continued in the 4 years since the ACIA was written and confirms that, even though the great variability throughout the Arctic makes trend detection difficult, the long-term projections of the ACIA are likely to be realized. Additional assessment reports are planned during and following the IPY, and international participation will be sought.
  • NOAA is working closely with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) of the Arctic Council on projects that contribute to IPY objectives. In February 2007, a workshop will be held to gather data on the Arctic carbon cycle and estimate its importance to the global carbon cycle now and at the end of the century under a global warming scenario. Additional workshops or reports are planned to consider pan-arctic downscaling from global climate models and a summary of Arctic information in the upcoming IPCC 4th Assessment Report. Both IASC and the IARC (UAF) are involved in these efforts.
  • NOAA intends to work with the SEARCH program, the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC), and AMAP to further develop the Arctic Observing Network concept. NOAA will push for completion of a network design and an international implementation process to be completed by the end of the IPY period.

10. Decision Support for Increasing Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Variability in Alaska and the Arctic

a) The cornerstone of NOAA’s Regional Climate Decision Support program for Alaska and the Arctic is to establish an integrated program spanning stakeholder-influenced research and the development of decision-support tools for sustained delivery of customer services. This includes establishing in Alaska a Regional Integrated Sciences & Assessments (RISA) center in Alaska and a Regional Climate Center (RCC) with formal liaisons to NOAA’s National Weather Service and the State Climatologist Office to foster growth of climate services.

Progress: The newest RISA, the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), is a joint program between the University of Alaska /Fairbanks and the University of Alaska/Anchorage. ACCAP is currently developing an informational website. The ACCAP is being led by investigators from four groups at the University of Alaska: the Institute of Social and Economic Research (F. Ulmer), the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research (J. Walsh), the Institute of Northern Engineering (D. White), and the Department of Anthropology (S.C. Gerlach). The ACCAP’s activities will be guided by the central hypothesis that changes of climate in the North, particularly changes in seasonality, have consequences for the health, lives, and livelihoods of Alaskans, as well as for the companies who do business in Alaska. State and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, commercial/industrial entities, Alaska Native Tribes, and private individuals will benefit from an improved understanding of climate change impacts and enhanced user services consistent with the NOAA mission.

b) NOAA is part of the U.S. presence in the Arctic Council (AC). The AC plans to conduct several assessments during the IPY period, including the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, an assessment of the Arctic carbon cycle, and others. NOAA will provide expertise and financial support within available resources

c) The U.S. National Ice Center (NIC) brings together elements from NOAA, the Navy, and the US Coast Guard to support coastal and marine sea ice operations and research globally. The mission of the NIC is to provide the highest quality strategic and tactical ice services tailored to meet operational requirements of U.S. national interests. NIC is participating directly or indirectly in an increased number of research and application cooperative projects with other national and international groups as part of International Polar Year (IPY) activities throughout 2007 and 2008.

d) NOAA's National Data Centers handle a wide variety of Arctic data. An affiliated data center, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC; CIRES, University of Colorado), has a NOAA supported program ( to produce and manage selected data sets. Overall, the NSIDC program emphasizes data rescue and in situ data. This emphasis helps collect and maintain the long time series with broad spatial coverage that is necessary to track and attribute Arctic change

11. Formal and Informal Education

The Climate Literacy Working Group (CLWG), based at the Climate Program Office, is coordinating NOAA-wide IPY education and outreach activities with the NOAA Office of Education. The NOAA IPY effort is part of the NSF-led interagency IPY education effort and will collaborate and coordinate its efforts with agencies participating in the IPY.

Progress: Current IPY efforts are:

  • IPY/NSTA Symposia:* These Symposia are designed for grade
    5–8 science educators in celebration of the IPY..
    These symposia will be held at the NSTA national conference in March 2007.
  • IGLO* is a project of the Association of Science-Technology
    Centers, an international organization of science centers and
    museums dedicated to furthering the public understanding of science.
    IGLO's goals are to raise public awareness about the impact of
    global warming and the state of climate science, position science
    centers globally as recognized leaders in public engagement with
    science and support the aims and objectives of the IPY. NOAA, NASA
    and NSF are sponsors of the initiative.
  • Climate Change in the Arctic Ocean* is a teacher professional
    development and mass media project on the NABOS 2006 Arctic
    Expedition aboard Icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn.

More information:

Home Scientific General Interest Gallery Essays Faq Report Card