Today, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability is releasing a report covering Arctic research activities carried out by 16 Federal agencies under the 5-Year Arctic Research Plan issued by the White House in February 2013. Produced by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), the report describes key interagency activities and accomplishments carried out over a two-year period following the release of the research plan. These efforts focused on leveraging research funding and scientific talent to accelerate our understanding of, and ability to predict, environmental changes in the Arctic. The report details how IARPC enhanced cooperation among the agencies, and encouraged participation from other entities, including the State of Alaska, indigenous communities, universities, local organizations, and international research agencies.
There is a clear need to advance Arctic knowledge and research. Environmental changes in the Arctic are having serious impacts on local communities, as well as affecting communities in more temperate latitudes. For instance, melting ice on land contributes to rising sea levels, with costly implications for coastal communities around the globe. In addition, shrinking Arctic sea ice impacts species composition in regional ocean waters and, as a result, requires those who depend on marine resources to spend more for dinner, and/or change their harvest practices and their diets. Shrinking sea ice accelerates global warming and alters atmospheric and ocean circulation, with cascading changes in weather patterns in other parts of the world. For these reasons and more, the state of the Arctic is important to us all, and the need for better understanding of Arctic systems is urgent.
In developing its report, IARPC focused on topics considered both important to national policy and likely to benefit from interagency collaboration; these include regional climate models, human health studies, and adaptation tools for communities.
The report describes how IARPC-enabled activities have addressed research ranging from coordinated field deployments to data sharing and interoperability. These activities generate knowledge that will inform key national priorities such as homeland security; energy, water, and food security; maintenance of transportation infrastructure; and protection of natural resources.
For example, IARPC agencies and external partners developed a framework for studying the ecosystem in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska, and then, through a competitive process, selected research projects to target critical knowledge gaps. One of the most biologically diverse and productive regions in the world, this vast area is important to tribal, Alaskan, U.S., and international interests—and it is undergoing rapid change. IARPC-led efforts in this region will help leaders, decision makers, and stakeholders anticipate and effectively respond to these changes.
IARPC agencies also coordinated efforts to standardize information about Arctic atmospheric data. Members worked across global, institutional, and project-level repositories to create and populate a new data portal, which provides access to metadata from a consortium of 10 independently-funded Arctic atmospheric observatories.
This and other research described in the report supports IARPC’s vision of a prosperous, sustainable, and healthy Arctic understood through innovative and collaborative research coordinated among Federal agencies and domestic and international partners. It further reflects an emerging connectivity across the vast network of activities and individuals with a stake in Arctic research—a network that includes all citizens of the United States, as well as many around the world.
To read the report, click here.
Tamara Dickinson is Principal Assistant Director for Environment and Energy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Mike Kuperberg is Executive Director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.