Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility US Department of Energy

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North Slope of Alaska

 

The North Slope of Alaska (NSA) atmospheric observatory provides comprehensive data about cloud and radiative processes at high latitudes.

The NSA is a focal point for atmospheric and ecological research activity in the Arctic. Scientists use data from the NSA to improve the representation of high-latitude cloud and radiation processes in earth system models.

Science in the Alaskan High Arctic

Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow)

In an area known as the “top of the world,” the NSA central facility at Utqiaġvik has hosted research near the coast of the Arctic Ocean since 1997. Smaller instrumented sites called extended facilities are located near the central facility.

Take a Virtual Tour

Inactive ARM Sites in Alaska

Atqasuk: The Atqasuk facility, which was part of the larger NSA observatory, was installed in the summer of 1999 off of a road near the Atqasuk Airport and operated through 2010. Located approximately 70 miles south of Utqiaġvik, Atqasuk is adjacent to the Meade River. Its climate is much more continental than that of Utqiaġvik.

Oliktok Point: From 2013 to 2021, the third ARM Mobile Facility (AMF3) operated at Oliktok Point, about 160 miles east of Utqiaġvik. This remote deployment provided important data about arctic climate processes at the intersection of land and sea ice. The site also included DOE-controlled airspaces for crewed aircraft and uncrewed aerial systems.

Please note: Data from Oliktok and Atqasuk—as with all previous ARM deployments—remain freely available in the ARM Data Center.

Measuring the Changing Arctic

Alaska’s North Slope offers ideal locations to study the rapidly changing atmosphere and climate of the Arctic. Compelling reasons to study the atmosphere and climate at high latitudes include:

  • The Arctic is warming more quickly than anywhere else on the planet. Recent decreases in arctic sea ice coverage affect how much heat from sunlight is reflected versus absorbed by the ocean.
  • In the Arctic, ice (including snow) is the predominant form of condensed water most of the year. Ice and snow scatter, transmit, and absorb sunlight and radiant heat much differently than water.
  • There is very little water vapor in the atmosphere, which changes how radiant energy propagates through the atmosphere and affects the performance of some instruments.
  • The major “pumps” for the global ocean currents are at high latitudes, and there is good reason to believe that those pumps will be affected by climate-related changes in the atmosphere.
  • High-latitude atmospheric processes over both land and sea must be characterized for incorporation into global and regional climate models, and are typically underrepresented due to the sparsity of collection sites.
  • Polar amplification will likely produce a larger change in temperature at the poles as compared to the average change of the planet as a whole. This will affect global weather patterns, likely resulting in more severe weather events at lower latitudes as well.

Instruments and Data

The NSA supports almost 60 active instruments, many of which were built specifically for high latitudes.

ARM transmits all data gathered at the NSA to the ARM Data Center, where they are made freely available via Data Discovery.