United States Arctic Observing Network

The Arctic environment is shifting rapidly with potentially catastrophic consequences to Arctic and global society. However, structural gaps in observing and data systems continue to hamper our understanding of the drivers and implications of these changes. Arctic observing faces many challenges, including extreme physical conditions and a lack of regional infrastructure, which drives up the cost of observing systems. Additionally, a patchwork of approaches across federal agencies, eight Arctic nations, and other observing partners increases complexity.

These challenges and imperatives gave rise to the vision of an internationally coordinated Arctic Observing Network (AON). The network brings together sustained observations targeting and linking the most critical aspects of a rapidly changing Arctic, in support of research, products, and public services. In response to this vision and to better coordinate U.S. efforts, federal agencies initiated the U.S. Arctic Observing Network (US AON).

The US AON, a recognized sub-body of IARPC, is organized into three parallel efforts.

  1. The US AON Board is composed of representatives from IARPC’s federal agencies, with significant investments linked to sustained or networked observations. The purpose of the US AON Board is to foster interagency partnerships.
  2. The IARPC Collaborations Arctic Observing Systems Sub-Team (AOSST) is a broader federal and non-federal body. It convenes researchers, knowledge holders, and end users of scientific observations.  The AOSST engages the broader community in monthly collaborative discussions around improving the observing network, including innovative uses of existing observations and strategically critical observing system gaps. It also meets regularly (2-3 times per year) as the international coordination body on Arctic observing networks and data systems in support of international initiatives like Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) and its Arctic Data Committee (ADC), the Arctic Observing Summit (AOS), the Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM), and more.
  3. US AON Task Teams are ad hoc facilitated efforts led by one or more agencies. They focus on a specific observationally derived product or service, with the aim of improving its performance through strategic improvements to the observing and data systems.

Get Involved

  1. Join our next IARPC Observing Team (AOOST) meeting
  2. Suggest a US AON Task by contacting Sandy Starkweather (sandy.starkweather@noaa.gov)

Goals and Processes

The goal of the US AON is to improve the integrated performance of Arctic-wide observing and data management activities through fostering strategic planning and implementation partnerships across observing efforts and data systems. The US AON is committed to facilitating the inclusion of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Arctic residents in observing activities, following guidelines like the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic and models for the Co-Production of Knowledge.

The US AON, including the US AON Board, was established in 2016 in response to recommendations from a National Academies study entitled “Toward an Integrated Arctic Observing Network” (2006), with a joint mandate from the White House Arctic Science Ministerial (2016) and the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) initiative. All of these called for improved capacities for national coordination in support of integration and improvement of Arctic observations.

The US AON fosters partnerships through the organizational structures described above: the US AON Board, and the IARPC Collaborations Observing Team (AOSST), and US AON Task Teams. The US AON convenes partners to share information and coordinate strategies to enhance the integration and value of Arctic observing and data systems and to create greater collaboration and transparency across a complex network of agency programs and objectives.

Some accomplishments of these organizational efforts include:

US AON supports strategic planning for improved implementation of the AON by undertaking methodologically-focused US AON Tasks. US AON Tasks engage teams of subject-matter experts in order to identify specific actions to improve the underlying observing system and its contributions to society and scientific discovery, which are achieved through research findings, data products and services. Tasks center on thematically-driven, mission-critical efforts linked to key products (e.g., Arctic Report Card) or services (e.g., daily sea ice forecasts) that bring together one or more federal agencies, relevant partners, and network users to identify issues and solutions. By tracing where observing systems are contributing to societal needs, as well as where there are needs that are not being met, the US AON helps establish an understanding of the current state of Arctic observations. Tasks map key dependencies and vulnerabilities, and provides an important information base for targeting improvements.

The US AON is working to better incorporate Indigenous Knowledge and observations into the US AON Task framework, and to better serve and partner with Arctic Indigenous communities across a range of activities.

The US AON Board, IARPC Principals, White House Office of Management and Budget, agency-specific observing coordination offices (e.g. NOAA-TPIO), and the broader research and decision-making community are all considered relevant audiences for the findings of US AON Tasks.

Some accomplishments of these methodological efforts include:

If you have other questions, please reach out to the US AON Program Analyst, Hazel Shapiro (hazel@iarpccollaborations.org).

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