Explore ARM’s quarter century of Arctic data

September 7, 2022 8:00 am Published by

A remote atmospheric observatory in Alaska delivers continuous measurements from a critical locale in the fast-warming, fragile Arctic

Among atmospheric scientists, some can’t get enough of cold places. They love visiting and doing science in the Earth’s cryosphere. That is a word for parts of the planet where water is frozen much of the year. The frozen water is in oceans, in clouds, and atop and within land.

Many cold-loving researchers have one thing in common: the use of data and other resources from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

ARM’s primary footprint in the cryosphere is its North Slope of Alaska (NSA) atmospheric observatory in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. This 4,000-person dot on the map, pronounced “ut-key-AHG-vic,” is 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It’s the northernmost town in the United States.

Except for an “ice road” available part of the year, no paved roads from big places lead to Utqiaġvik. The temperature there gets above freezing, off and on, about six months a year.

The NSA is among six ARM atmospheric observatories operating in climate-critical regions of the world.

In 2022, ARM, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility, salutes 25 years of continuous atmospheric data from the NSA. Hundreds of terabytes of NSA measurements are now freely available for use.

Researchers can find data on solar and infrared radiation, water vapor, clouds, snowfall, temperature, and other measures pertaining to weather and climate.

Meanwhile, for those cold-loving atmospheric scientists, ARM and the NSA are frequent points of convergence.

‘A Different Planet’

Bernie Zak, now retired from Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, is another lover of research in cold places. He was the NSA’s first site manager from 1997 to 2006.

From the beginning, Sandia took charge of the NSA. ARM, meanwhile, is a collaboration of nine DOE national laboratories.

Of the NSA’s opening, says Zak, “we were well accepted from Day One.”

Sandia’s Mark Ivey is another drift-deep fan of arctic research―and a member of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States.

In the 1990s, Ivey was an early organizer of the NSA and in 2006 took over NSA site management from Zak. He stayed in that role until 2019, then became science liaison.

“I like going up there in winter,” says Ivey of Utqiaġvik, where for decades he visited at least 10 times a year. “It’s like being on a different planet.”

Read the complete feature on the ARM website.

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