Global Permafrost Data Gaps: Impacts on international collaboration and national security



  • Prof. Klaus Dodds - Royal Holloway University of London, UK
  • Alec Bennett - University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
  • Troy Bouffard - University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
  • Dr. Ekaterina Uryupova - The Arctic Institute, USA & APECS, Russia
  • Prof., Dr. Vladimir Romanovsky - University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
  • Dr. Dmitriy Streletskiy - George Washington University, USA





While the world continues to work toward an understanding and projections of climate change impacts, the Arctic increasingly becomes a critical component as a bellwether region. Scientific cooperation is a well-supported narrative and theme in general, but in reality, presents many challenges and counter-productive difficulties. Moreover, data sharing specifically represents one of the more critical cooperation requirements, as part of the “scientific method [which] allows for verification of results and extending research from prior results.” One of the important pieces of the climate change puzzle is permafrost. In general, observational data on permafrost characteristics are limited. Currently, most permafrost data remain fragmented and restricted to national authorities, including scientific institutes. The preponderance of permafrost data is not available openly - Important data sets reside in various government or university labs, where they remain largely unknown or where access restrictions prevent effective use. Although highly authoritative, separate data efforts involving creation and management result in a very incomplete picture of the state of permafrost as well as what to possibly anticipate. While nations maintain excellent individual permafrost research programs, a lack of shared research - especially data - significantly reduces effectiveness of understanding permafrost overall. Different nations resource and employ various approaches to studying permafrost, including the growing complexity of scientific modeling. Some are more effective than others and some achieve different purposes than others. Whereas it is not possible for a nation to effectively conduct the variety of modeling and research needed to comprehensively understand impacts to permafrost, a global community can. In some ways, separate scientific communities are not necessarily concerned about sharing data - their work is secured. However, decision and policy makers, especially on the international stage, struggle to understand how best to anticipate and prepare for changes, and thus support for scientific recommendations during policy development. To date, there is a lack of research exploring the need to share circumpolar permafrost data. This article will explore the global data systems on permafrost, which remain sporadic, rarely updated, and with almost nothing about the subsea permafrost is publicly available. The authors suggest that the global permafrost monitoring system should be real-time (within technical and reasonable possibility), often updated and with open access to the data (general way of representing data required). Following a brief background, this article will offer three supporting themes, including 1) the current state of permafrost data, 2) rationale and methods to share data, and 3) implications for global and national interests.

Presentation: Saturday, March 20th, 2021

On 20 March, 2021, Professor Klaus Dodds presented our draft work on behalf of the team to the Fulbright International Arctic Seminar by Russia. Below are the presentation slides, agenda and recording.

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