An Integrated Observation System for the Arctic Zone

Polygons in the Arctic permafrost (picture: Torsten Sachs).

Due to a number of reasons including e.g. increasing temperatures, a thinning and decrease of the ice mass and thawing of permafrost, the Arctic has become a particularly sensitive and rapidly changing region. Nevertheless, the Arctic has still not been widely explored to date. However, this is now changing as scientists from different countries reconnoiter the zone north of the polar circle – on land, in the seas, in the air and from space. The amount of data available is increasing but not always used in the best way. The EU project INTAROS aims at improving this situation. This project will get started in Bergen (Norway) on Wednesday, 11 January and Thursday, 12 January 2017 with workshop hosting a total of 48 participating institutions from 19 countries including the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences.

The acronym INTAROS stands for “Integrated Arctic Observation System”. In a first step, the project will assess the type of available data from meteorological observations to Earth observation satellites. This will enable scientists to get better access to information.

Moreover we hope to identify and fill in the gaps in observational data”, says Torsten Sachs from the GFZ Section “Remote Sensing”. The researchers are considering the installation of new sensors or the improvement of already existing hardware, e.g. to also enable operation during winter months. Torsten Sachs and his colleagues from the GFZ will contribute with data from airborne observations in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. Their studies in Northern America were conducted with the research plane “Polar 5” of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). In Russia, the team used a local helicopter with special sensor equipment. “We have carried out measurements on meteorological data such as temperature, wind and humidity as well as on heat flux and concentrations in addition to fluxes of CO2 and methane”, says Sachs. Another flight campaign in Canada and Alaska is planned for 2018.

Moreover, the INTAROS scientists wish to standardize existing types of data to develop an integrated observation system. They will provide tools for data discovery, aggregation, analysis and visualization which shall be useful for scientists and governments alike.

The project is funded by the EU programme Horizon 2020 with €15.5 million. The GFZ’s share is € 250,000. INTAROS is a joint project of 14 European countries under the leadership of Norway. Further partners come from the US, Russia, China, Korea, and Canada. (rn)


A related video provided by the coordinating Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center can be found here.