Developing sea ice and weather forecasting tools to improve situational awareness and crisis response in the Arctic

Project Overview

Dates: August 2017—June 2019

Status: 
Current

Primary Scientists: 

Nathan Kettle, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Andy Mahoney, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Hajo Eicken, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Lawson Brigham, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Sailboat stuck in the ice.  Rescued by the USCG Cutter Healy

Coast Guard Cutter Healy crewmembers make contact with a mariner aboard his 36-foot sailboat trapped in Arctic ice approximately 40 miles northeast of Barrow, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

This research aims to improve situational awareness and crisis response by enhancing support for planning and emergency response to emerging climate-related environmental marine hazards in the Arctic. We address this challenge by developing a decision support tool, grounded in stakeholder interactions, to support weather and sea ice-sensitive decision making. This includes facilitated and deliberate interactions among UAF researchers, US Coast Guard emergency responders, NOAA forecasters, and marine operators in the Arctic. We focus our research on the waters surrounding Barrow, Alaska, a sub region of the North Slope located on the north coast of Alaska between the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Our project involves three phases: preliminary tool development, stakeholder feedback and tool optimization, and outreach, dissemination, and evaluation. Prototype tool development involves three steps.  First, we assess the decision contexts of marine operators in the arctic, including weather and sea ice-sensitive decisions, use of weather and climate information, factors influencing information use, thresholds, and uncertainties via a series of literature reviews and interviews. Second, we identify coastal hazards from historical gridded ice velocity data from the UAF coastal sea ice radar system (CSIRS). Third, we will collaborate with the National Weather Service (NWS) and Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) to identify procedures for generating event notifications detected by EWS’s and formats suitable for communicating information. These findings will be used to develop a prototype forecasting module. Feedback obtained from marine stakeholders, via an interactive webinar, will be used to further optimize our forecasting tool. We integrate the tools and products emerging from this project directly into the operations of the NWS, Alaska Sea Ice Program and ERMA’s response management portal.