Scope of activities
The Environmental Intelligence Collaboration Team is a new team created as part of Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021. The team's scope of activities will include implementation of Research Objectives and Performance Elements listed under Research Goal 9, which is described as follows in the Plan:
To adequately support decision-making in the face of unprecedented change in the Arctic, the United States and its international partners need improved scientific data collection and stewardship, understanding, and environmental predictions. This challenge requires frameworks for generating Environmental Intelligence: integrated environmental knowledge that is timely, reliable and suitable for the decisions at hand.
Developing suitable Environmental Intelligence frameworks requires the integration of two distinct aspects of research. The first concerns the end-to-end integration of research across the linked and iterative steps of problem identification, environmental observing, understanding, prediction, and decision support. For example, safe marine transit through Arctic waters requires engagement with operators to understand the details of their information needs, such as high resolution sea ice forecasts. To produce these forecasts, sparse yet detailed observations of sea ice from drifting ice buoys, community-based observers, and other in situ observations must be synthesized with broad, low- resolution satellite observations. Synthesized observations must then be assimilated into forecast models, which subsequently must be tested and validated through efforts like observational process studies—feeding back into an iterative cycle of improved observing and modeling capabilities.
The second aspect of Environmental Intelligence requires integration of research across the components of the Arctic System, as most decision-making contexts require a holistic view. Building on the example in the previous paragraph, research is needed to inform how gridded estimates of sea ice thickness are interdependent with weather systems and ocean currents. With its emphasis on understanding the interconnected nature of the Arctic, presents a model for Arctic System integration.
Interagency collaboration is ideal for making progress on both end-to-end and Arctic System integration, because capacities and mission mandates to provide decision support tend to be distributed across many institutions and independently sponsored work. For example, and the Department of the Interior () sponsor many Alaska-based programs directly concerned with research for stakeholder engagement and decision support, such as , and ’s LCCs. These agencies and others like , , and also support sustained observing of the Arctic environments; , , , , and all contribute to models for improved predictions and projections, and many agencies support data centers that contribute comprehensive data stewardship for valuable Arctic data products. The Arctic Domain Awareness Center (), sponsored by , bridges between research and operations to improve maritime domain awareness in support of the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USGC) mission. Collaborations will serve as a valuable forum for sharing practices and linking capabilities across agencies and outside collaborators.
While these efforts in the Arctic provide a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise, the Environmental Intelligence Goal addresses key areas for interagency progress. The sparseness of observational coverage and limited year-round environmental intelligence gathering have hobbled efforts to fully understand the impacts of changing environmental conditions on global processes as well as weather patterns, ecosystems, economic development, and safety. Interagency collaboration can leverage sparse observing assets and propel enhancements through the development of autonomous technologies (Research Objective 9.1). Modeling is a vital tool to advance system integration, to capture feedbacks within the systems, and to extend current understanding into the future. Progress is needed on how Arctic-specific processes and feedbacks are represented in models (Research Objective 9.2). Further, Arctic modeling can benefit from global and regional improvements to things like model resolution, as well as from comparative assessments, including quantified uncertainties among models (Research Objective 9.3). Arctic data stewardship, sharing, and access is evolving from systems where data are discovered in data catalogues and downloaded to the local machines of users, to a system of distributed data nodes with visualization and collaboration platform capabilities made to enable interoperability. Interagency collaboration is needed to understand the connection between these distributed nodes and work toward common visions (Research Objective 9.4) for exchanging and integrating data, in particular across disciplines. Finally, the practices of and frameworks for exchanging knowledge between researchers and stakeholders are in an exciting and dynamic growth period, yet few organizations have the capacity or mandate to adequately address the needs. Collaborations can serve as a valuable forum for advancing dialog on engagement research, decision support, and science communications (Research Objective 9.5) and feedback critical areas for progress (e.g. specific data needs) to the other Research Objectives in this Goal.
Improvements within and across each of these areas will improve the ability to understand, communicate about, and support decisions in response to the impacts of Arctic change. These efforts, across the scales from community to global at which agencies engage, support each policy driver of this plan (Well-being, Stewardship, Security, Arctic-Global Systems).
The is tasked with integrating across three sub-teams: Arctic Observing Systems, Arctic Data, and Modeling. Undertaking in-situ system-wide measurements in the Arctic region is difficult, given the logistical challenges of working in extreme environments. The urgent need for environmental knowledge in the Arctic highlights the need for a new and responsive approach to Arctic observing. The Environmental Intelligence () framework aims to achieve an end-to-end integration of linking the results of scientific research and decision support. By integrating across Arctic system observing, data and modeling efforts, scientific results can be more easily translated in a holistic way into stakeholder needs and policy-relevant contexts. The approach aims to produce environmental knowledge that is timely, reliable, and suitable for decision support at the local, state, national and pan-Arctic levels.
The team leaders and the sub-team leaders used the annual planning meeting in Anchorage (March 2017) to identify cross-cutting themes that emerged from the new FY2017-FY2021 plan. Team leaders carefully identified research foci to incorporate the network analysis and expertise of the eight other collaboration teams. Topics that emerged include the carbon budget/cycling, the energy budget, food security, maritime safety and shipping, and national security. The team leaders identified the carbon budget focus as an action-ready topic and have woven this topic through sub-team meetings and group meetings. Progress has been made with the carbon focus following the performance element 9.5.1 (advance coordination among federally-funding research programs that provide decision support to Arctic stakeholders) through the hosting of joint collaborative meetings as well as the Carbon Forum hosted in July. Examples of collaborative meetings held by the sub-teams include carbon data interoperability (-), terrestrial carbon observations: a carbon case study (), and regional Arctic models: a focus on carbon (). The first of the scheduled forums took place in late July to introduce the carbon focus and to solicit valuable feedback from the community. Progress has also been made on performance element 9.5.2 (advance policy-relevant science communication) via the inclusion of an essay to ’s Arctic report card (Collecting Environmental Intelligence in the New Arctic). The is also hosting a poster session at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (December 2017) to make further progress on the carbon focus (Science to Decision Making: Using the Environmental Intelligence Framework to Constrain the Arctic Carbon Budget).
The following three reports outline the achievements and goals of the sub-teams.