The Obama Administration’s National Science and Technology Council has released a five-year Arctic Research Plan that outlines key areas of study the United States will undertake to better understand and predict environmental changes in the Arctic.
Environmental changes in the Arctic—such as rapidly-melting ice on land and at sea—are not only having profound impacts on local Arctic populations but are also affecting more distant communities and businesses that depend on Arctic resources to thrive. Among an array of effects, melting land-ice contributes to rising sea levels, and will have costly implications for communities, businesses, and infrastructure located on coasts. Diminishing sea-ice changes the composition and distribution of species found in regional ocean waters and, as a result, forces communities that depend on those resources for food to alter their harvest practices and/or their diets. Waning sea ice accelerates global warming and alters circulation in the atmosphere and oceans in ways that change storm patterns in other parts of the world.
At the same time, Arctic indigenous peoples suffer shorter life expectancies and greater infant mortality rates than their respective national populations. Native peoples also experience a high prevalence of infectious diseases and health impacts associated with exposures to environmental pollutants and rapid environmental change.
Among a number of other activities, the new five-year plan calls for an assessment of the resilience and vulnerabilities of Arctic communities to the impacts of climate change. It will aim to provide Arctic residents, community leaders, and policy makers at all levels of government with the knowledge needed to plan and adapt. Read more.
Photo: An iceberg captured on camera during a 30-day mission in 2012 to map areas of the Arctic aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather. NOAA.