Science Plan for Arctic System Modeling a report by the Arctic research community for the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs

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Science Plan for Arctic System Modeling

A report by the Arctic research community for the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs

Lead Authors:

A. Roberts­1,2, L. Hinzman2, J. E. Walsh2, M. Holland3, J. Cassano4, R. Döscher5,

H. Mitsudera6, A. Sumi14

Major contributors:

U. Bhatt2,10, C. Deal2, S. Elliot13, M. Follows9, H. Lantuit12, D. Lawrence3,

W. Maslowski7, A. D. McGuire2,8, P. P. Overduin12, I. Overeem11, V. Romanovsky10

  1. Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  2. International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  3. National Center for Atmospheric Research

  4. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder

  5. Rossby Centre, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute

  6. Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University

  7. Naval Postgraduate School

  8. Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  10. Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  11. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder

  12. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

  13. Los Alamos National Laboratory

  14. Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo

This draft is available for download at:



Executive summary 3

Motivation 5

Vision and description 6

Summary of capabilities 7

Ongoing activities 8

International collaboration 9

Recommended approach and strategy 10

Model constituents 10

Model domain 11

Organization and coordination 13

Infrastructure needs 15

Core activities and phased implementation 15

Science Vignettes 19

Arctic sea ice trajectory 19

Introduction 19

Model requirements 20

Needs for an ASM 21

Carbon feedbacks to climate in the Arctic system 23

Introduction 23

Simulating the complete carbon Ccycle 23

Summary 24

Processes affecting glacier mass balance 28

Arctic coastal erosion along the Beaufort Sea, Alaska 31

Biosphere feedbacks on atmospheric composition and climate 37

Introduction 37

Simulating the effects of sea ice loss on marine ecosystems 37

Short-term impacts of permafrost degradation on climate 39

Introduction 39

The Role of Permafrost in the Climate System 39

Funding 41

Arctic System Model implementation timeline 41

Short-term objectives (years 0-3) 42

Mid-term objectives (years 3-5) 43

Long-term objectives (years 5-10) 43

References 45

List of acronyms 48

Contributors to this report 50

Arctic System Model implementation workshop I 50

Arctic System Model implementation workshop II 52

Further contributors 54

Executive summary

Observations and analyses of diverse data suggest that the Arctic is experiencing changes never before seen in historic times. The physical, chemical, biological, and social components of the Arctic system are interrelated, and therefore a holistic perspective is needed to understand and quantify these connections and predict future climate change. An Arctic System Model (ASM) would strengthen our understanding of these interconnected components. It would advance scientific investigations and provide a framework for advancing predictive capabilities, thereby helping society to prepare for environmental change and its impacts on humans, ecosystems, and the global climate system. It will be a vehicle for harnessing the resources of the many sub-disciplines of the Arctic research community to enable them to better serve planners and policymakers.
An ASM will build on previous modeling and observation. In addition, it will benefit from ongoing studies of a variety of component models that are in varying stages of development. The initial core model will include atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and selected land components and will be constructed in a manner that allows investigators to add or exchange components. Additional components will be added to the core model As the ASM project progresses. These components will include ice sheets, mountain glaciers, dynamic vegetation, biogeochemistry, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, coastal systems, atmospheric chemistry, and human and social dimension modules. A long-term goal of the project is the development of the ability to nest the model inside global climate simulations, enabling model up-scaling to assess the influence of the Arctic region on global climate.
An ASM will provide a research focus and will be a tool that can synthesize the knowledge gained from disparate ongoing research activities. It will require coordination of diverse segments of the international research community and support for computing infrastructure and software. The coordination function will be guided by a set of working groups and a scientific steering committee. A core facility will fulfill the functions of a project office, to be shaped and overseen by a steering committee. Dedicated software engineering personnel should provide documentation, testing, and support for the ASM. Proposals for the development of coupling software, perhaps the most important infrastructure surrounding the ASM, should be sought early in the process.
Stage One of the ASM will fund pilot projects that allow researchers to demonstrate the capacity of limited-area coupled models to improve understanding of the role of the Arctic in global climate change. These projects would use high-resolution, Arctic-focused simulations to understand the physics, chemistry, and biology of the Arctic as it undergoes rapid change. Stage One will focus on constructing the regional ASM climate model core. Stage Two incorporates coupled biogeochemical and ecological components into the ASM. Stage Three targets the coupling of those components least ready for integration into the ASM, include so-called ‘human-dimension’ components. Each stage requires close interaction between ASM model developers and the global modeling and observation communities, and each should be focused on answering the key science questions articulated in this report.
Five Science Vignettes included here demonstrate the need for spatial resolution currently unavailable from global climate models. Each requires a synthesis of modeling and observations, particularly through the development and optimization of model parameterizations. Such synthesis across models and observations represents a core theme of the ASM activity.
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