The Navy’s chief of naval research, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, met this week with leaders from U.S. and Canadian government agencies to address research efforts in the Arctic, in response to dramatic and accelerating changes in summer sea ice coverage.
“Our Sailors and Marines need to have a full understanding of the dynamic Arctic environment, which will be critical to protecting and maintaining our national, economic and security interests,” said Klunder. “Our research will allow us to know what’s happening, to predict what is likely to come for the region, and give leadership the information it needs to formulate the best policies and plans for future Arctic operations.”
Aerial view of the Chukchi Sea between Chukotka and Alaska, displaying a pattern of leads. Much of the open water inside those leads is already covered by new ice(indicated by a slightly lighter blue color).
The Arctic Summit, held Dec. 11 at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) headquarters in Arlington, enabled senior leaders from ONR, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Research and Development Canada, the Departments of Energy and Interior, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, the Navy Task Force Climate Change and more to share important scientific ideas on the region. One of the goals of the summit was to assess the different Arctic research efforts—and potentially form new research partnerships.
“Vital and varied Arctic research is taking place across a number of agencies,” Klunder said. “We are identifying areas of common scientific interest—and ideally come up with a comprehensive mutual understanding of everyone’s current and planned efforts.”
In the wake of last week’s widely reported release of NOAA’s Arctic Report Card—co-edited by ONR program officer and Arctic science expert Dr. Martin Jeffries—new concerns have arisen over record-low levels of sea ice and snow in the Arctic.
“We are surely on the verge of seeing a new Arctic,” said Jeffries. “And, since the Arctic is not isolated from the global environmental system—indeed it is an integral and vital part of that system—we can expect to see Arctic change have global environmental and socio-economic consequences.”
While yesterday’s summit was not a policy meeting, experts agree that changes in the Arctic could raise substantial future strategy questions.
The U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap, authored by the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change, notes that: “Because the Arctic is primarily a maritime environment, the Navy must consider the changing Arctic in developing future policy, strategy, force structure and investment.”
Changing Arctic conditions are opening the region to more human enterprise that could impact naval operations, including:
• Oil, mineral and other natural resource extraction
• Commercial fishing
• Scientific research
If, as Klunder hopes, new research partnerships develop from meetings like the one held this week at ONR, it could result in a powerful planning tool for military and civilian officials alike.
“We know that the key to a successful path forward for all parties and nations concerned depends on the ability to plan ahead,” said Klunder. “And for that, we are utilizing top-flight research from leading scientists around the globe.
“We’ll keep working together to fully understand this changing Arctic.”
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