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Location of Barrow, ArcticCoordinates: -156.79294672517307, 71.2790809231056
Barrow, Alaska is an area where changes in the timing of coastal sea ice formation and breakup, and in the location of offshore sea ice with respect to the coastline, have significant local impacts. Additionally, changing climate is causing rapid changes in the permafrost that underlies this entire area. Changing sea ice and permafrost have ecological, biological, and human implications and consequences. Data collected at this site are required to understand and model the dynamics of sea ice and permafrost, and to determine how these changes influence other systems.
Barrow is located in the northern-most part of Alaska; roughly 2,100 km (~1,300 mi) south of the North Pole.
Center Coordinate: Latitude 71° 17’ 44” N, Longitude 156° 45’ 59” W
August 28, 2005- June 21, 2010.
The town of Barrow, Alaska, located on the coast of the Beaufort Sea, is the largest US Arctic community. Landfast ice forms along the coast in the fall, and generally melts or breaks away by mid-July. As the image series documents, significant annual variability in the shoreward position of the ice can occur in as little as one year. In July 2006, abundant pack ice was still within a kilometer of the shore. In July 2007, the year with the second smallest summer extent of sea ice ever noted through remote sensing, (a record that began in 1979 and was again broken in 2012), the ice margin was more than 100 km (62 mi) offshore. Changes in the timing of fast ice breakup, and in the location of the ice edge, have significant local impacts. For example, subsistence hunters use ice as a hunting platform, polar bears hunt on the ice because of the biologically productivity and diversity at the ice edge, and barges and other non-ice-strengthened vessels re-supply the North Slope when fast ice is gone. Similarly, melting ice bodies contained in subsurface permafrost have major impacts on human infrastructure and the landscape. Local roads, the Barrow airport, and buildings of all kinds are being affected as internal ice melts.
Barrow has been a long term observatory for watching how permafrost and near-shore sea ice responds to warming temperatures. Susceptibility to climate change and rising temperatures has led to thawing permafrost, settlement of the ground, and damages to infrastructure.
From a sea ice perspective, the Barrow, Alaska image series monitors changes in the timing of fast ice formation and breakup, and provides information on smaller scale ice properties, such as the number and orientation of pressure ridges, and the presence or absence of melt ponds. This helps scientists understand how ice is used by polar bears, and other marine mammals. From a permafrost perspective, Barrow contains the greatest concentration of human infrastructure ant the largest human population in the U.S. Arctic. Observing the dynamic changes that are resulting from subsurface permafrost ice melt provides useful insights into the engineering designs needed to support and preserve both the population and the infrastructure in the future.
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