Credit: Kari Mäenpää

Ten years of sustained Arctic observing

The Arctic is undergoing rapid change. In order to understand the effects on ecological and socio-economic systems, as well as to implement mitigation and adaptation measures, sustained and holistic observations are vital.

To this end, the Sustained Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) was established as a joint initiative of the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) in 2011.
At the Ministerial meeting in Nuuk in 2011, the Ministers of the Arctic States recognized the importance of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks process as a major legacy of the International Polar Year. The networks were to strengthen multinational engagement in pan-Arctic observing and to monitor Arctic environmental change. The vision was a connected, collaborative, and comprehensive long-term pan-Arctic Observing System that would serve societal needs.

To achieve this, SAON has outlined three goals: ensuring sustainability of Arctic observing; promoting free and ethically open access to all Arctic observational data; and creating a roadmap to a well-integrated Arctic Observing System.

Create a roadmap to a well-integrated Arctic Observing System

“SAON’s Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems, short: ROADS, is built upon a holistic benefit analysis. It takes the environmental, economic, and social domains into account in which services, operations, and research provide societal benefit”, explained Sandy Starkweather, SAON Chair and Executive Director for the US Arctic Observing Network.

To implement this ambitious roadmap, the partnership with, and active, equitable involvement of Indigenous peoples and local communities is essential. ROADS will draw on community-led approaches, and involve Indigenous knowledge holders, local organizations and networks to fill existing observation gaps, which are critical to add to the understanding of the Arctic system as a whole.

SAON connects the Arctic Observing System with global initiatives as a member of the Group on Earth Observation and organizes within it the Arctic part of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (Arctic GEOSS).

Promote free and ethically open access to all Arctic observational data

To promote free and ethically open access to all Arctic observational data, SAON plays a leading role in working with the Arctic and broader polar data community to develop shared standards for finding, accessing and reusing observing data. Much is achieved through frequent virtual meetings that lead towards the Fourth Polar Data Forum scheduled for the end of 2021.

Arctic Observing Summit

The Arctic Observing Summit (AOS) is SAON’s outreach event. AOS is a high-level, biennial summit that aims to provide community-driven, science-based guidance for the design, implementation, coordination and sustained long-term (decades) operation of an international network of Arctic observing systems. AOS was held in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020, each with approximately 250 participants. The 6th AOS will be held in 2022 in the context of ASSW in Tromsø, Norway.