Climate Change, Arctic Sea Ice Data and Sovereignty

The NYTimes has a great interactive multimedia article about the effects climate change on Arctic sea ice melting. The module is simple, explains the basics and is accompanied by some wonderful maps. (See two of the five images from the article below).

With the Arctic ice melt comes the opening of the seas and land, increased potential for exploration and fishing combined with international claims to the region accompanied by questions of sovereignty. This article Spatial Data Infrastructure: Implications for Sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic in particular speaks to that issue.

Currently in Canada there is excellent research ongoing in the Arctic as part of International Polar Year (IPY) and some projects are incorporating indigenous knowledge into climate research such as the Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project (ISIUOP). IPY is innovative in many ways, in the case of the mandate of this blog and the data policy is fantastic. To receive funding IPY researchers have to share their data and to archive them. There is also an IPY portal that will disseminate results. It is very rare to see funding tied to dissemination and preservation in this way. The IPY Data Policy is well worth reading and emulating in other contexts. Here is a small portion of what is in the

In accordance with

  • the Twelfth WMO Congress, Resolution 40 (Cg-XII, 1995
  • the Thirteenth WMO Congress, Resolution 25 (Cg XIII, 1999)
  • the ICSU 1996 General Assembly Resolution
  • the ICSU Assessment on Scientific Data and Information (ICSU 2004b)
  • Article III-1c from the Antarctic Treaty
  • the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Data Exchange Policy

and in order to maximize the benefit of data gathered under the auspices of the IPY, the IPY Joint Committee requires that IPY data, including operational data delivered in real time, are made available fully, freely, openly, and on the shortest feasible timescale.

The only exceptions to this policy of full, free, and open access are:

  • where human subjects are involved, confidentiality must be protected
  • where local and traditional knowledge is concerned, rights of the knowledge holders shall not be compromised
  • where data release may cause harm, specific aspects of the data may need to be kept protected (for example, locations of nests of endangered birds or locations of sacred sites).

ICSU (2004b) defines “Full and open access” as equitable, non-discriminatory access to all data preferably free of cost, but some reasonable cost-recovery is acceptable. WMO Resolution 40 uses the terms “Free and unrestricted” and defines them as non-discriminatory and without charge. “Without charge”, in the context of this resolution means at no more than the cost of reproduction and delivery without charge for the data and product themselves.

Collaborative natural science has always aimed at disseminating and sharing results and finally there is some teeth and financial backing to support that spirit.

Summer Sea Ice NYTimes

Cloud Cover

Data Sources: National Snow and Ice Data Center; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; William Chapman, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign; Donald K. Perovich, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory; Institute of Environmental Physics. 

Module Authors: Erin Aigner, Jonathan Corum, Vu Nguyen/The New York Times.