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Learn more about these CLIMATE RESEARCH areas...

Arctic Research

In recent years, decreasing ocean pack ice, increasing air temperatures, thawing permafrost, and redistribution of plants and animals in the delicately balanced Arctic ecosystem indicate that Artic climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. This causes scientists to search for answers to questions such as: How will this affect the climate and cultures of the Arctic ? How will such changes impact the climate and cultures of other regions? These are questions that NOAA wants to answer as part of its mission to better understand and predict the Earth's environment..

It is NOAA's Arctic mission to observe and understand Arctic processes and provide information to U.S. policy and decision makers. NOAA's activities in the Arctic are directed toward integration of Arctic observations, advancement of Arctic modeling efforts, improving Arctic satellite observations, providing leadership on Arctic ocean and coastal issues, and providing Arctic air and sea observations that are critical to assessing change in the climate system.

NOAA's Arctic research is currently organized and supported by the Arctic Research Office. The Arctic office oversees NOAA's research activities in the Arctic, Bering Sea, North Pacific and North Atlantic regions. It also represents NOAA on the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, which leads U.S. involvement in the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, and provides a point of contact between NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research and the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

NOAA Research in the Arctic

Arctic Atmospheric Observatories

NOAA Research is establishing Arctic observatories in key locations to make continuous, detailed measurements of Arctic surface radiation, clouds, aerosols, and chemistry sufficient for detailed evaluation of interactive climate change processes in the lower Arctic atmosphere. An existing observatory at Barrow, Alaska, is the prototype for a second observatory now being established in the Canadian high Arctic at an existing Canadian meteorology station. Observatories in Siberia and Greenland are also anticipated.

Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA)

The Bering/Chukchi Seas region is thought to be particularly sensitive to global climate change because of the anticipated loss of winter ice cover and the warming of ocean waters. To understand the impact of exchanges between the Arctic and the Pacific oceans, it is necessary to monitor the fluxes of water, heat, salt and nutrients, as well as the resulting redistribution and migration of plants and animals.

Collaboration between the U.S. and Russia began with the expedition of the Bering and Chukchi Seas (Arctic Ocean) in 2004. This cruise, the result of an agreement between the two countries, was the first activity under the Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA). (Rusalca means mermaid in the Russian language.)

Arctic Change Detection

Historical and ongoing Arctic changes are synthesized to assess and predict ongoing Arctic change. For instance, analysis of trends over the past 34 years for a large number of environmental variables indicate far-reaching and correlated changes across a spectrum of physical and biological changes.

Arctic Ocean Ice Thickness Buoys

One of the most dramatic and visible changes to the Arctic system is the decreasing extent and thickness of Arctic Ocean ice. It is a challenge to monitor ice thickness, so NOAA contributes to a network of ice buoys that are the primary source of such data.

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

NOAA's Arctic research supports a number of projects focused on the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH). An interagency program, SEARCH fosters cooperation so that the full scope of changes in the Arctic can be fully understood and described.

Partnerships in Arctic Research

NOAA collaborates with several groups on Arctic research, both domestically and internationally, including: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP); the Arctic Council; the Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research; and the International Arctic Research Center. Only by working cooperatively with its external partners can the Arctic climate and its impacts be properly assessed so that the best policy can be produced by decision makers.


Crepuscular rays illuminate the melting ice of the Beaufort Sea

Crepuscular rays illuminate the melting ice of the Beaufort Sea (NOAA Library)


Arctic Oscillation-Related Surface Temperature Change

Arctic Oscillation-Related Surface Temperature Change, 1950-1996 (From Joint Institute for Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean Web Site, Todd Mitchell)

NOAA Research programs that contribute to Arctic Research

checkmark Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL)
checkmark Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL)



Additional Related Information