COLUMBUS, Ohio An Ohio State University geologist today outlined a new plan to oceanographers that would consolidate much of the world's studies on the Arctic region into a global observation network.
"This is basically a plan to better understand how the Arctic is changing, but doing it in a new systematic, international and 'pan-Arctic' way," explained Berry Lyons, professor in the School of Earth Sciences and director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University.
Lyons chaired a 18-member National Academy of Sciences committee that last year that submitted a report, "Toward an Integrated Arctic Observing Network," outlining their proposal.
"The Arctic is much more than just the oceans there. It is the land, the peoples, the atmospheric and biological components that constantly interact with one another at the top of the world," he said.
"It also includes, perhaps, the most understudied of the world's oceans, partly because of the logistics it requires to work there and the ice cover that blankets it for much of the year."
Lyons said that the idea of linking together research on the land, the ocean, the atmosphere and the human dimensions and examining it all as a system is the key goal of establishing an Arctic Observing Network (AON).
"We're trying to understand how the Arctic system is responding, not just to climate change although that is a major reason but also to environmental changes in general," he said.
The fact that most of the Arctic research that has been done to date has been segregated by academic discipline has limited the kind of cooperation that an AON would offer, Lyons said.
"This is an opportunity to get people from different scientific disciplines together and to start thinking about the Arctic as a larger, interconnected system. That's the new part of this."