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Arctic Buoys Help Tell Story of Planetary Climate Change

Each year, NOAA produces the Arctic Report Card to help us understand the exponential impacts of climate change on the Arctic. Many of the impacts of climate change in the polar regions are amplified by the positive feedback loops within the geo-systems.

The data represented in the maps, graphs, and other visualizations comes from many observation systems and research programs funded by numerous national and international entities. The International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP), which Wild Rose Education is engaged with, is one of these many polar observing networks.

The drifting buoys deployed by the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) are actively observing the weather and sea ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean, and have been doing so since 1979. This more than 40 years of consistent continual data contributes to our collective understanding of what is happening in the Arctic, and also how the Arctic Ocean and sea ice affect the rest of the planet.

(map) Near-surface air temperatures across the Arctic from October 2021-September 2022 compared to the 1991-2020 average. Most of the Arctic was warmer than average (red) during the monitoring year, though Alaska was notably cooler-than-average (blue). (graph) Annual temperatures in the Arctic (red line) are increasing more rapidly than the global average (gray line). Read the full story. NOAA image, based on ERA5 reanalysis (map) and NASA (graph) data.

The drifting buoys make multiple observations each day from the multi-year sea ice in the Arctic ocean. The maps above and below utilize a lot of satellite imagery and are also 'ground truthed' by the the buoys on the 'ground' (sea ice, open water) along with other Arctic observation systems.

Often as readers of these types of reports and maps we forget that data is more than numbers and spreadsheets. Data is spatial and geographic, and can be much better understood and communicated through visualizations and maps.

In regard to specifically the Arctic Ocean, here are a a couple notable take aways from the 2022 Arctic Report Card:

  • 2022 Arctic sea ice extent was similar to 2021 and well below the long-term average.

  • August 2022 mean sea surface temperatures continued to show warming trends for 1982-2022 in most ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean. SSTs in the Chukchi Sea were anomalously cool in August 2022.

  • Satellite records from 2009 to 2018 show increasing maritime ship traffic in the Arctic as sea ice declines. The most significant increases in maritime traffic are occurring from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait and Beaufort Sea.

1 Comment

Mar 07, 2023

Have a great trip!

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