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A Comprehensive Modeling Approach Towards Understanding and Prediction of the Alaskan Coastal System Response to Changes in an Ice-diminished Arctic

This project combines state-of-the-art regional modeling of sea ice, ocean, atmosphere
and ecosystem to provide a system approach to advance the knowledge and predictive capability of the diverse impacts of changing sea ice cover on the bio-physical marine environment of coastal Alaska and over the larger region of the western Arctic Ocean.

The main science hypothesis to be addressed in this project can be formulated as follows:
The recently observed dramatic decrease of summer sea ice cover in the western Arctic
Ocean is driven by two main, primarily local factors: (i) the oceanic heat advection of
summer Pacific Water via the Alaska Coastal Current and (ii) the positive ice-albedo feed-

To understand physical processes and air-sea-ice interactions involved in these two driving factors, detailed studies, including historical and new observations and very high-resolution modeling, of the Alaska coastal environment are required. The following five specific science goals are proposed to address those requirements in support of the main hypothesis of this project:

  1. Explore feedback processes among sea ice, ocean and atmosphere leading to recent and possible future summer decreases of sea ice cover in the Western Arctic Ocean
  2. Quantify impacts of oceanic and atmospheric forcing on regional sea ice cover and its variability
  3. Determine effects of changing sea ice, ocean dynamics and atmospheric circulation on the Alaskan coastal ecosystem (due to temporal and spatial variability)
  4. Establish numerical requirements for an optimal hindcast and prediction of environmental conditions in the Alaskan coastal system
  5. Provide guidance for optimal design of an integrated observing system of the Alaskan coastal environment

NPS logoThis research is supported by the Naval Postgraduate School.

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Project Participants

University of Colorado
John Cassano
Matt Higgins

Naval Postgraduate School
Wieslaw Maslowski

University of South Florida
John J. Walsh