Sea Ice Community of Practice

Enhancing understanding and improving predictions of the changing Arctic sea ice cover.

Scope of Activities

The Sea Ice Community of Practice was created under the Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021 to enhance understanding and improve predictions of the changing Arctic sea ice cover. It continues to meet and contribute to the goals and objectives of the Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026.

Team Leaders

Melinda Webster
University of Washington

Nathan Kurtz
Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Angela Bliss
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Elaine Runge

Ignatius Rigor
University of Washington (Website)

Deliverables from the Arctic Research Plan

2.1 Advance understanding of Arctic amplification and the associated connections with lower latitudes.

  • 2.1.1 Provide funding opportunities for investigator-driven modeling and observational studies that focus on the following aspects of Arctic Amplification: (1) ice-albedo feedback; (2) impacts of atmospheric and oceanic circulation on Arctic Amplification; and (3) transport of heat, moisture, and pollutants between Arctic and lower latitudes. Share knowledge and synthesize results arising from these studies.
  • 2.1.2 Hold workshops and webinars and produce publications to encourage interagency research coordination on Arctic Amplification.
  • 2.1.3 Provide opportunities to support and coordinate research to enhance the understanding of connections between Arctic and global ocean circulation with a particular focus on Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
  • 2.1.6 Quantify the contributions of surface properties, clouds, aerosol particles, and precipitation to the Arctic summer surface radiation budget and sea ice melt during the early melt seasons.

2.2 Observe, understand, predict, and project Arctic ecosystem change and its impacts on humans and the entire Earth system.

  • 2.2.3 Develop and update meaningful products for delivering findings and information concerning key climate features, including the annual release of the peer-reviewed Arctic Report Card on the current state of the Arctic relative to the historical record.
  • 2.2.5 Convene community-wide workshop highlighting how remote sensing data products can be used to inform multi-scale land models from plot to pan-Arctic and inform use of remote sensing data in land surface models.
  • 2.2.6 Continue support for research programs that document Arctic marine species distribution, abundance, biodiversity, health and condition, foraging ecology, demography, habitat use in the Arctic, and basic life history information as well as age and growth rates of key links in the food web.

2.3 Understand interactions between social, ecological, and physical Arctic systems, particularly in the context of coastal, climate, and cryospheric change.

  • 2.3.7 Improve high-resolution models’ ability to capture coastal processes at the interface of ocean, land, and atmosphere by supporting targeted collaborations among model developers, users, and decision-makers. Products will include an interagency scientific peer-reviewed publication and conference sessions that address these models.

4.1 Summarize currently available data and information requirements associated with hazard and risk mitigation, adaptation, and response efforts. Synthesize community-led activities and information to identify potential needs for future efforts.

  • 4.1.1 Conduct a study identifying where information used in decision-making and planning can be improved through access to new or additional data sources. This study should consider a wide range of activities associated with ongoing responses to common and emerging hazards, including risk reduction efforts and emergency preparedness and response.
  • 4.1.2 Share findings of deliverable 4.1.1 as a means (1) to spur additional research and science communication aimed at addressing unmet needs for planning, prevention, response, and recovery and (2) to inform time-sensitive decision-making and planning processes.

4.2 Update and improve the “Statewide Threat Assessment: Identification of Threats from Erosion, Flooding, and Thawing Permafrost in Remote Alaska Communities.”

  • 4.2.1 Undertake a study to identify the top 10 threats/hazards to communities and critical remote state and Federal government infrastructure in the state of Alaska that should be included in the Statewide Threat Assessment. This might include coastal and river erosion, flooding, thawing permafrost, and changes in the seasonal snowpack.
  • 4.2.2 Upon completion of 4.2.1, establish a data collection and collation plan to include mechanisms to collect threat/hazard data that may not be readily available.
  • 4.2.3 Collect and integrate disparate threat/hazard information and perform modeling and analysis to understand where natural and human-made threats and hazards pose a risk to Arctic communities.

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 1.3 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.

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

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

  • MOMP 3.2 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.

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.


Under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, the Sea Ice Community of Practice:

  • Supported collaboration around observations and process studies of pack ice, ice motion, and surface energy balance exchanges including the multi-agency and international MOSAiC, SODA, and SIDEx field campaigns.
  • Provided a platform for the U.S. International Arctic Buoy Program to share information about its accomplishments and outreach with the broader sea ice research community.
  • Supported Operation IceBridge campaigns in the winters of 2017, 2018, and 2019.
  • Supported the launch of the NOAA/NASA Joint Polar Satellite System in 2017 to enhance understanding of sea ice age/thickness, ice concentration, ice surface temperatures, snow cover, and snow water equivalent.
  • Supported the NASA Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) in 2018 to estimate sea ice thickness over the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.
  • Shared information about NASA/National Snow and Ice Data Center remote sensing products.
  • Supported (via agencies) the development of autonomous systems to enable persistent data collection on the sea ice environment.
  • Collaborated with the Physical Oceanography team to investigate Arctic Ocean processes, interactions, and feedbacks that affect the dynamics and thermodynamics of sea ice cover.
  • Shared information about model-observation synthesis centered on the MOSAiC expedition and ICESat-2.
  • Collaborated with the Modeling Team to share information on operational sea ice forecasting and research-oriented prediction capabilities.
  • Supported the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Sea Ice Action Team to synthesize the results of multiple agenciesʼ and other stakeholdersʼ investments in sea ice observations and process studies and communicate results, information, and the societal implications of sea ice change to broader audiences.
  • Supported a collaborative network of scientists and stakeholders to advance research on sea ice predictability and prediction.

For a full summary of the Sea Ice Community of Practice’s accomplishments under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, see the 2021 Performance Element Summary Statements.