North Slope of Alaska

Barrow: 71° 19' 23.73" N, 156° 36' 56.70" W
Atqasuk: 70° 28' 19.11" N, 157° 24' 28.99" W

The North Slope of Alaska (NSA) site is providing data about cloud and radiative processes at high latitudes. Centered at Barrow and extending to the south (to the vicinity of Atqasuk), west (to the vicinity of Wainwright), and east (towards Oliktok), the NSA site has become a focal point for atmospheric and ecological research activity on the North Slope. The principal instrumented facility was installed near Barrow in 1997, followed by a smaller remote site in Atqasuk in 1999, which operated through 2010.

High latitude data are being used to refine models and parameterizations as they relate to the Arctic and are receiving increasing attention as the interactions of the atmosphere-ocean climate system become better understood. In addition, other compelling scientific reasons to study climatic change at high latitudes are listed below:

  • Ice (including snow) is the predominant form of condensed water most of the year, both in the air and on the surface. Ice and snow scatter, transmit, and absorb sunlight and radiant heat much differently than water
  • There is very little water vapor in the atmosphere, changing the impact of the atmosphere on the propagation of radiant energy, particularly radiant energy propagating upwards from the surface, and on the performance of some atmospheric remote sensing instruments.
  • The major "pumps" for the global ocean currents are at high latitudes, and there is good reason to believe that those pumps will be affected by climate-related changes in the atmosphere.
  • High latitude atmospheric processes over both land and sea must be characterized for incorporation into global climate models.

In the late 90s, the adjacent Arctic Ocean was probed by the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA) experiment, a multi-agency program led by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. SHEBA involved the deployment of an instrumented ice camp within the perennial Arctic Ocean ice pack that began in October 1997 and lasted for 12 months. For International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007 and 2008, the NSA provided continuous data for Arctic research and hosted two IPY experiments: Radiative Heating in Underexplored Bands Campaign and the Indirect and Semidirect Aerosol Campaign.