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


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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.

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:

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:

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

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:

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