Fresh Eyes on Ice: Connecting Arctic Communities through a Revitalized and Modernized Freshwater Ice Observation Network

Winter is the most rapidly changing season in the Arctic, causing widespread responses in freshwater ice and the ecosystems and communities that rely on frozen lakes and rivers. Freshwater ice dynamics—the formation, growth, and melt of ice—not only integrate winter climate conditions, but also impact permafrost, hydrology, greenhouse gas emissions, and human travel and subsistence.

Long-term observations document dramatic changes in ice thickness and breakup timing in lakes and rivers of northern latitudes. Such ice observations come from rigorous programs conducted by government and academic scientists using satellites, in situ sensors, and sophisticated field measurements, but also from lake- and river-side communities, school classrooms, and subsistence-users who watch these changes daily.

Through support from the National Science Foundation Navigating the New Arctic program, Fresh Eyes on Ice revitalizes existing freshwater ice datasets and expands observations in space and time through modern satellite, aerial, and in situ sensing techniques integrated with community-based monitoring teams. Winter field campaigns, dedicated social media and data sharing are connecting communities in boreal and arctic Alaska, making science education and outreach seamless components of this observing network.

Additional support from NASA's Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program has enabled the project to partner with Tanana Chiefs Conference, National Weather Service Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, the international citizen and community science program Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), and the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center Tribal Resilience Learning Network. Together, we are expanding the capacity for app-based photo observation of ice conditions to support river ice safety and flood forecasting and long-term research on changing ice conditions. We are also investing in ensuring that the project is meeting the needs of our river communities and researchers through a thorough needs-assessment process.