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This article is part of the Fall 2014 issue of the Earth Science Matters Newsletter.
Climate model projections for this century consistently suggest that rapid rates of warming will continue in the Arctic, especially in Alaska and the adjacent Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas. Climate data to support Arctic research has been difficult to acquire due to the remoteness of the region and its harsh environmental conditions. Continuous climate measurements are now available from an array of climate observing stations in northern Alaska.
The projected Arctic warming is expected to degrade permafrost (ice-rich soil frozen for two or more years) and have significant impacts on terrestrial and marine habitats, wildlife, indigenous people, commerce, and human infrastructure. Permafrost degradation also has significant implications for carbon cycling and changes in the release and storage of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gases.
The USGS Permafrost- and Climate-Monitoring Network (DOI/GTN-P) consists of two primary observing systems: 1) A deep borehole array used to monitor the thermal state of permafrost, and 2) the climate-station network being reported on here. DOI/GTN-P is part of the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, an international data network designed to improve our understanding of climate change throughout the Arctic and the Northern Hemisphere. The DOI/GTN-P network is located on DOI-managed lands on the Arctic Slope of Alaska, specifically within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These stations continually record air and ground temperatures, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, snow depth (during the cold seasons), rainfall, and soil moisture. Most stations transmit their data in near real-time in support of arctic research and DOI land management decisions. All data acquired by the DOI/GTN-P climate network between 1998 and 2011 have recently been released in an online USGS Data Series. The report includes hourly, as well as monthly, seasonal, and annual climate summaries.
The report, published in 2013, is available at https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ds812