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Changing Arctic

Top Arctic Scientists, Policy-makers OK Plans for Better Climate Monitoring, Data Sharing


A top-level Arctic science conference in Washington …

Mainstream media outlets like MSNBC and the Washington Post don’t often give much play to scientific conferences such as the White House Arctic Science Ministerial held earlier this week. But that and other high-profile climate change-related events in and around Washington this week and next suggest there’s growing international awareness that much more research is needed on the warming Arctic.

Credit MSNBC screenshot
U.S. Arctic Research Commission Chairwoman Fran Ulmer and Jeremy Mathis, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Arctic Research Program, talked about the Arctic Science Ministerial Wednesday during MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

“I think that finally, that we’ve turned a corner in terms of both having the societal and political and scientific ability to really make some progress in the Arctic,” says Jeremy Mathis, who directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Arctic Research Program.

Mathis has been working for years to improve scientists’ ability to monitor climate change’s impact on the circumpolar north. He said in an interview during a ministerial reception that that’s also the consensus among scientists and policy-makers from 25 nations who participated in the event, along with representatives from five Arctic indigenous peoples organizations.

Credit UAF file photo
Jeremy Mathis, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks assistant professor of oceanography, in a UAF lab.

“The really common theme that was heard over and over again was that we need to work together,” he said. “We need to share information openly, and we need to find common solutions to the challenges that we face in the Arctic.”

For Mathis, the ministerial’s most important achievements include agreements to expand monitoring of climate-change impacts on the region and sharing that data between the eight circumpolar nations and 15 non-Arctic nations represented at the event. Also, a commitment to support the Arctic Council-sanctioned Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks, and a new U.S. initiative announced during the ministerial to help promote that data-gathering and -sharing.

“The United States has agreed that it’s going to staff a U.S. Arctic observing network,” he said.

Mathis says the network also will work more closely with other regional and local efforts. Including, especially, those by indigenous peoples in the region.

He says the new network also look for gaps in the scientific community’s understanding of changes under way in the Arctic, and ways to fill those gaps.