Fresh Eyes on Ice: Connecting Arctic Communities through a Revitalized and Modernized Freshwater Ice Observation Network
Snow and ice are essential parts of living in cold places, and all northern peoples observe, understand, and appreciate how these change every year. Wide-scale observations of freshwater ice and how its presence has changed over time will meet a fundamental need for a broad range of stakeholders, from rural communities that depend on ice for transportation and subsistence harvest, to industries that rely on winter water for ice road construction, to scientists studying climate change and ecosystem services. The Fresh Eyes on Ice observation network addresses this need by collecting data across a wide area of interior, western, and northern Alaska using satellite observations, monitoring stations on lakes and rivers, and field campaigns by snowmachine--all integrated with a partnership of community-based local scientists, teachers, and school children. The design for this observation network builds on the Alaska Lake Ice and Snow Observatory Network (ALISON), a project hosted by University of Alaska Fairbanks from 1999 to 2011 that used this basic premise for hands-on data collection by K-12 students and teachers in communities across Alaska. Teachers still informally use the ALISON program; by reviving this approach through the Fresh Eyes on Ice observation network, using modernized techniques, this project will foster new appreciation for environmental change in the Arctic and inspire new scientists, in addition to providing valuable information in a time of rapid change.
Winter is the most rapidly changing season in the Arctic, causing widespread responses in freshwater ice and the ecosystems and communities that rely on frozen lakes and rivers. Freshwater ice dynamics--the formation, growth, and melt of ice--not only integrate winter climate conditions, but also impact permafrost, hydrology, greenhouse gas emissions, and human travel and subsistence. Long-term observations document dramatic changes in ice thickness and breakup timing in lakes and rivers of northern latitudes. Such ice observations come from rigorous programs conducted by government and academic scientists using satellites, in situ sensors, and sophisticated field measurements, but also from lake- and river-side communities, school classrooms, and subsistence-users who watch these changes daily. Together these ice observations provide a valuable and integrated record of winter climate change relevant at local, regional, and global-scales. Navigating the new Arctic with Fresh Eyes on Ice, a new freshwater ice observation network, revitalizes existing datasets and expands observations in space and time using modern satellite, aerial, and in situ sensing techniques integrated with community-based monitoring teams. Extensive late winter field campaigns, dedicated social media and data sharing between widely spaced communities and interested scientists, and visualization systems will connect communities in boreal and arctic Alaska, making science education and outreach seamless components of this observing network.