Arctic Systems Interactions Collaboration Team

Enhancing our ability to observe, understand, predict, and project the Arctic’s dynamic interconnected systems and their links to the Earth system.

Scope of Activities

The Arctic is the fastest changing region on Earth, with changes observed in physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems. Over the past several decades, Arctic air, ocean, and land temperatures have increased at a rate more than twice the global average, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Arctic sea ice extent has decreased dramatically, with summer melting occurring earlier and both the summer and winter sea ice extent shrinking faster. Boreal and Arctic permafrost (perennially frozen ground) thaw increases carbon emissions that further exacerbate global temperature increase. Additionally, the Greenland Ice Sheet, the largest ice mass in the Northern Hemisphere, is retreating, and the associated melt contributes to increased sea level rise . These changes will affect the environment and associated natural resources in the Arctic, and will ultimately have a large economic impact.

These changes do not happen in isolation, but involve feedbacks that impact multiple components of the Arctic’s natural and human systems, as well as the larger Earth systems. Understanding these interactions, including impacts to the environment as a result of human behavior, is becoming increasingly important, and is also useful for predicting future Arctic and global changes. For instance, changes in atmospheric constituents, clouds, and circulation affect the surface energy budget in the Arctic, thereby affecting sea ice extent. Decreasing sea ice extent, in turn, alters the air-sea interaction impacting the energy balance of the atmosphere and ocean. Similarly, sea ice and marine ecosystem changes are affected through changes in ocean circulation and heat and freshwater budgets. Changes in the Arctic affect global atmospheric circulation by altering the jet stream and the polar vortex, which in turn influences midlatitude weather in the United States.

Changes within individual components of the Arctic system can have cascading impacts on the integrated system. For instance, sea ice change, thawing permafrost, changing storm strength, and increased sea level due to glacial melt all have an interconnected effect on Arctic coastlines, such as increased flooding, leading to erosion, which can have large economic impacts. Interactions between human and natural systems also have broad implications to Arctic Indigenous communities.

In recent years, ocean primary productivity in nearly all regions of the pan-Arctic was higher than in the past, which can be linked to lower sea ice cover and increased nutrient availability. In addition, with changes in sea ice and water temperature, some species are responding with spatial or temporal changes in their distributions. For example, in 2017, commercially important Pacific cod and pollock in the Bering Sea expanded north approximately 500-1,000 km in less than 12 months. The Western Arctic bowhead whale—an important species for Indigenous ways of life—provides another example. Although the population has shown a steady increase since commercial whaling ended, the autumn migrations in 2019 and 2020 exhibited new extremes of opposite degrees in whale densities near Barrow Canyon, with very low densities and a far offshore distribution in 2019 and record high densities and nearshore distribution in 2020.

The impacts on the terrestrial ecosystem are also significant. Plant species in the Arctic are exhibiting changes with extended growth season, earlier snow-melt, and altered precipitation patterns. Wildfire frequency and intensity are impacted by air temperature and weather patterns while soils, permafrost, hydrology, the terrestrial ecosystem, and human health are impacted when an area burns. For example, enhanced fire activity, permafrost thaw, and changes to local and regional hydrologic cycles are also expected to enhance the release and deposition of mercury trapped in Arctic soils and tundra. This in turn can have negative impacts on human health.

Computational models that quantify the drivers of past and current Arctic change, as well as the interactions and feedbacks of these changes with Earth’s natural and human systems, are needed to understand the interconnected Arctic system. Models help represent the state of understanding of systems and are the principal mechanism through which current understanding can be projected into the future. Models of both the individual components of the Arctic as well as the comprehensive Earth system are needed. Different kinds of observations are also needed, including intensive short-term observational campaigns, long-term satellite and in situ observations, and observations that detail the Arctic climate and environment on the geologic time scale, as well as observations that include generations of Indigenous Knowledge. Modeling and observational capabilities across agencies, along with research on Arctic and Earth system processes, enhance our understanding of Arctic system interactions.

By addressing this priority area, the U.S. Arctic research community will have a better understanding of the Arctic system and its connection to the Earth system as a whole. This will include reduced uncertainties in predictions and an increased ability to inform strategies that minimize the negative impacts and take advantage of the opportunities of a changing Arctic.

Team Leaders

Renu Joseph

Kelly Brunt
NSF (Website)

Sophie Nowicki
University at Buffalo (Website)

Shawn Serbin
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Website)

Hailong Wang
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Website)

Kaitlin Harbeck
NASA Cryospheric Sciences Program (Website)

Emma Menio
National Science Foundation

Deliverables from the Arctic Research Plan

3.3 Improve multi-species and ecosystem approaches to predict climate change impacts on species distributions and on economically viable access to commercial and subsistence species in the next 50 years.

  • 3.3.1 Develop short-term comparative model predictions of the distribution and populations of fishery species (e.g. pollock, cod, salmon, halibut, crab) in response to evolving climatic conditions in the Northern Bering Sea and Southern Chukchi Sea.

DATA 1 Encourage and implement FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and CARE (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) data management principles in the Arctic.

  • DATA 1.1 Identify verified points of contact (e.g., agency champions, data practitioners, Arctic residents, Indigenous organizations) and their areas of expertise and interests for working with the data team on exploring and implementing FAIR and CARE in Arctic data management. As part of developing the points of contact, identify and track representation across many axes of diversity (demographics, disciplines/sectors, IARPC experience, career stage, and others) to ensure a diverse and representative group of contributors. The data team will check in with these groups regularly to ensure the points of contact are up to date.
  • DATA 1.2 Data 1.2 In order to build community buy-in and promote sustained efforts, develop and revisit and update terms of reference which articulate Biennial Implementation Plan Data Management roles, activities, and metrics.
  • DATA 1.3 Based on input from engagement activities, develop and update centralized documentation of thematic areas of interest, ongoing activities, and key documents and resources that can inform deliverables and future Biennial Implementation Plans.
  • DATA 1.4 Convene quarterly seminars, discussions, and training on FAIR and CARE data management in the Arctic. Ensure a diverse group of presenters and contributors are represented in these activities.
  • DATA 1.5 Develop a common format and structure (e.g., questions, prompts) for team meetings to help elicit and articulate perspectives on all aspects of FAIR and CARE to help work towards the community summary/synthesis products below.
  • DATA 1.6 Develop a summary document of perspectives on implementing FAIR and CARE in Arctic contexts.
  • DATA 1.7 Based on the summaries mentioned in DATA 1.6, develop concise (i.e., one-pager) public-facing documents on data management considerations to align with FAIR and CARE principles.

EDU 1 Develop a ONE STEM hub.

  • EDU 1.1 Establish a ONE STEM hub.
  • EDU 1.2 Provide access to STEM internships, skill development opportunities, and career pathways for those living in and/or with interest in the Arctic, in particular for rural and Indigenous communities.
  • EDU 1.3 Engage in ongoing and respectful dialogue with communities about education, training, and capacity building needs. Document feedback.
  • EDU 1.4 Use quarterly meetings to build the STEM Education team into a robust community that supports promotion of STEM careers and skills for rural and Indigenous students.

MOMP 1 Coordinate activities and communities of practice that bring together Arctic modeling, observing, monitoring, and prediction to advance Arctic research.

  • MOMP 1.1 Develop synthesis products, best-estimate datasets, model simulations, and model intercomparison studies from major Arctic field campaigns and long-term observational sites to advance the integration of observational and modeling studies and process-based assessment of model simulations.
  • MOMP 1.2 Support development of metrics that measure key Arctic processes and implementation of these metrics in benchmarking packages to facilitate model validation against observations.
  • MOMP 1.3 Provide funding opportunities for research coordination between groups working on Arctic coupled data assimilation and reanalysis, emphasizing intercomparison assessments of the full atmosphere-land-ocean-cryosphere coupled system.
  • MOMP 1.4 Support ongoing work, such as observing system experiments (OSEs), to quantify the current and potential value of Arctic ocean, atmosphere, sea ice, and land observations for initialized predictions spanning daily to decadal timescales.

MOMP 2 Support assessment, gaps analysis, and intercomparisons to understand observational and modeling needs in Arctic research.

  • MOMP 2.1 Develop an online tool for the research community to support expert elicitation and data visualization for the value tree gaps analysis methodology.
  • MOMP 2.2 Conduct observational gaps analysis case studies using the value tree methodology to inform understanding of the capabilities, opportunities, and gaps in Arctic observing and data systems, with an initial focus on risk hazard and mitigation.
  • MOMP 2.3 Provide support and/or funding opportunities for researchers to participate in existing Arctic-focused model intercomparison projects and explore the feasibility of developing new model intercomparison projects focused on the Arctic system, its components, or its coupling with the broader climate system to understand gaps in modeling and predictability of the Arctic system.
  • MOMP 2.4 Conduct workshops to identify Arctic modeling needs and priorities across research and operational modeling communities.
  • MOMP 2.5 Publish observing report tasked to the United States Arctic Observing Network (US AON) Board via IARPC.

MOMP 3 Support coordination and engagement with Federal, international, and non-Federal partners who are conducting monitoring, observing, modeling, and prediction of the Arctic.

  • MOMP 3.1 Support participation of United States researchers in international Arctic modeling and prediction efforts in order to quantify and improve the predictive capabilities of Arctic models as evidenced by relevant scientific papers, presentations, and meeting sessions.
  • MOMP 3.2 Coordinate communication of information about field activities to Alaska communities where the research is being conducted through the research expedition vessel status tracker and spring and fall reports on research season activities.
  • MOMP 3.3 Coordinate U.S. Federal Arctic observing and modeling research efforts with other relevant U.S. interagency groups (e.g., ICAMS, USCLIVAR, USGCRP, and USGEO) to identify priority activities to support the Arctic component of Earth System Predictability Research and Development Strategic Framework and Roadmap.

PILR 1 Fulfill Federal requirement to consult with Federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.

  • PILR 1.1 Create a best practices document on meaningful consultation and engagement on Arctic research with Alaska Indigenous communities that is applicable to all Federal agencies.
  • PILR 1.2 Evaluate the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic 2018, and update as needed based on the evaluation.
  • PILR 1.3 Develop and deliver training for agencies to implement the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic.

PILR 2 Engage Arctic communities and individuals in research in a way that is meaningful to them.

  • PILR 2.1 Create a training toolkit for scientists that can be self-guided and used as needed. Topics may include cross-cultural communication, consultation, participatory research, Indigenous Knowledge, overview of Indigenous culture groups, formal agreements, and how to contract and consult with Indigenous companies and individuals.
  • PILR 2.2 Create a report of examples where IARPC member agencies have engaged Indigenous Knowledge holders in research.
  • PILR 2.3 Request that each Priority Area Collaboration Team host regular meetings that meaningfully engage with Indigenous leaders, groups, and/or communities. This includes developing a list of contacts to support requests for engagement or tracking engagement with Indigenous participation.
  • PILR 2.4 Analyze and develop a report on broader impacts of science/research teams on Indigenous health and resilience.
  • PILR 2.5 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify mechanisms for Federal agencies to effectively communicate science plans and findings among themselves and with communities.

PILR 3 Develop guidance for agencies to consistently apply participatory research and Indigenous leadership in research.

  • PILR 3.1 Co-define “Indigenous leadership in research” with Tribes, Indigenous organizations, and Federal agencies; and integrate into the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic and its training toolkit and best practices documents.
  • PILR 3.2 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify methods to streamline contracting/agreements and compensation processes to make co-stewardship and co-production in research more equitable and achievable.
  • PILR 3.3 Convene discussions to identify mechanisms to foster equitable pathways for Indigenous leadership in research.
  • PILR 3.4 Identify best practices for Federal agencies to support capacity for Tribes and Indigenous Knowledge holders in research. Distribute guidance on best practices to IARPC agencies.
  • PILR 3.5 Ensure consistent terminology for Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Local Knowledge for IARPC. Suggest primary language for IARPC be Indigenous Knowledge.


To be added in 2023.