The accelerating retreat of Arctic sea ice in recent years highlights the need for improved monitoring efforts to provide information relevant to decision makers and stakeholders. Satellite data and global circulation models often lack details relevant to residents of Arctic communities, whose livelihoods can be profoundly affected by small changes in sea ice. As part of the Siku-Inuit-Hila (Sea Ice-People-Weather) project, we have established sea ice observation programs in three Arctic communities: Barrow, Alaska; Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada; and Qaanaaq, Greenland. By working with the communities to provide equipment and training, we have mitigated some of the difficulties involved in maintaining field programs in remote parts of the Arctic. We also created a framework for a two-way knowledge exchange between scientists and local sea ice experts. Results from the first season allow us to calculate rates of ice growth and ice melt at the upper and lower surfaces of the sea ice. The sea ice near Qaanaaq grew slowly during the end of winter before undergoing significant bottom melt. From this, we infer a significant source of ocean heat beneath the sea ice near Qaanaaq that was absent in the other communities. Findings such as these are vital for understanding how sea ice might respond on a local scale to global change, and local field observations are currently the only way to acquire the needed data. Close collaboration with Arctic residents can ensure consistent, quality data collection, the incorporation of local knowledge, and a better understanding of how changes affect Arctic communities.

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Footnotes

National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado

Community of Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada

Community of Qaanaaq, Qaanaaq, Greenland

*CURRENTAFFILIATION: Department of Physics, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand