Climate Change & Resilience

Unlike any other region on the global, the Arctic’s climate is the most dynamic and difficult to predict. Our academic teams partner with DoD service components to assist in establishing greater situational awareness, explore improved weather forecasting, and mitigate infrastructure degradations.

UAF faculty from the Geophysical Institute, the International Arctic Research Center, the Institute of Northern Engineering provide scientific support to the US Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory during the biennial ICEX exercise, which centers around drifting ice camp in the Beaufort Sea. UAF personnel analyze and assess experimental ice and weather forecasts and work with members of the National/Naval Ice Center to deliver timely information to the ICEX leadership for planning and operational decisions. In addition, UAF personnel directly support on-ice operations in the capacity of drifting sea ice Subject Matter Experts. This involves participation in all on-ice activities including airborne and on-ice surveys for science-based selection of the camp location, continual assessment of ice conditions during operations and testing of new technology to support safety such as laser-, radar, and GPS-based technique for early detection of ice fractures.

Established in 2007 SNAP develops plausible scenarios of future atmospheric and environmental conditions, which allows better planning for the uncertain future of Alaska and the Arctic.  SNAP produces statistically and dynamically downscaled climate data for research and planning in Alaska and western Canada. Ecosystem modeling capacity focuses on physical and biological interactions to project future environmental conditions with particular expertise in modeling vegetation dynamics, wildfire, and hydrologic processes. Expertise in geospatial and data visualization tools focuses on the development of decision support systems to inform design, planning, and decision making. The scenarios produced by SNAP and the data used to produce them are designed to be relevant to decision-makers, communities, and industry.

HyLab has been established at the Geophysical Institute to provide a much needed capability for hyperspectral imaging in the State of Alaska supporting science, applications, and education.

Hyperspectral imaging, also known as imaging spectroscopy, is an advanced remote sensing technology that can measure from a distance rather than simply observe. It relies on sophisticated sensors to generate hundreds of images of any target material on the surface of the Earth. These images can be combined to reconstruct the unique pattern in which the material reflects energy, thereby accurately identifying the target. 

 Hyperspectral imaging can help to identify individual minerals in an exposed surface, differentiate between healthy and infected trees of the same species, and map contaminant distribution in land, water and air in an effort to mitigate hazards due to environmental change and industrialization. Airborne hyperspectral remote sensing has been established to detect oil spill on lake and sea waters, or to detect black carbon and other pollutants on snow and ice surfaces in unprecedented detail. HyLab resources serve as a hyperspectral laboratory for characterization of surface water and vegetation in Alaska’s Arctic and boreal regions. 

HyLab research resources include laboratory and field spectrometers, and an aircraft equipped
with hyperspectral and thermal infrared imaging sensors that can be deployed for rapid airborne data acquisition during emergencies, or for scheduled research activities. HyLab can map and monitor targets or phenomena from micrometer to kilometer scales. The HyLab has the resources to calibrate the equipment to assure high-quality data, and the expertise to generate value- added data products. 

Nationwide, a few airborne hyperspectral imaging facilities exist but they are all outside Alaska. HyLab helps to cross the practical, logistical, and financial barriers that the State of Alaska has faced in using this important technique for resource exploration, ecological studies, and to serve the needs of Alaskan communities and the DoD. 

The center serves to increase the use and availability of weather and climate data and information. ACRC achieves this by providing climate services, developing climate data and information products, engaging stakeholders, and conducting applied weather and climate research.

The Alaska Climate Research Center (ACRC) and the Alaska State Climate Center (ASCC) have been established within the University of Alaska System three decades ago. ACRC and the ASCC recently merged as one combined ACRC service center within the Geophysical Institute.  The administration and management of the center is under the direction of the state climatologist, Dr. Martin Stuefer. The ACRC archives digital climate records, develops climate statistics and writes weather and climate summaries. ACRC conducts research on a number of high-latitude meteorological and climatological topics. The center’s tasks are to improve regional climate information and foster better use of the information in decision-making. ACRC applied research products include tools to predict extreme atmospheric aerosol dispersion originating from volcanoes and wildfires; Alaska has the highest density of active volcanoes worldwide, and Interior Alaska wildfires produce air quality issues across the Northern Hemisphere annually. The center maintains and supports atmospheric observational activities across the state, and ACRC archives include data that are valuable for assessing the magnitude and impacts of climate change across the State. ACRC staff provides support data and environmental impact studies for new industrial development and new energy generation solutions. ACRC product examples include real time sea ice maps near Utqiagvik derived from scanning weather radars in support of the local domain awareness and marine travel/transport. The ACRC engages in discussions to use the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) at Clear AFS for environmental applications such as detecting volcanic or wildfire aerosol.


ACRC has collaborated with the Air Force Weather Agency to provide novel methods for atmospheric contrail layer prediction, and to develop new (WRF-Chem) coupled numerical air-quality-weather model applications for operational prediction of volcanic ash.  ACRC supports local Air Force weather observers with specialized atmospheric observations (i.e. all-year round microwave temperature profiler measurements).  ACRC works with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center on environmental impact studies for secure and resilient future power generation in cold region environments, and provides new insights in ice fog microphysics and development during extreme cold conditions.  There is ongoing research and operational support together with the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA), which is a service center at the Geophysical Institute with the aim to provide satellite remote sensing products for observing weather phenomena and environmental change in real time. GINA operates downlink stations to broadcast data from numerous polar orbiting satellites. GINA products are vital for the National Weather Service and other operational centers. 

Both, the ACRC and the ASCC have been established by the State of Alaska by Title 14, Chapter 40, Section 085.