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Vital Signs

Fig. 1.3. Geopotential height (700 mb) anomalies from November 2014 to June 2015 over western North America and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Surface Air Temperature

Arctic air temperatures are both an indicator and a driver of regional and global changes. Although there are year-to-year and regional differences in air temperatures due to natural random variability, the magnitude and Arctic-wide character of the long-term temperature increase is a major indicator of global warming (Overland 2009). Here we report on the spatial and temporal variability of Arctic air temperatures during the period October 2014 through September 2015, the 12-month period since the end of the previous reporting period (Overland et al. 2014).

Greenland Ice Sheet

Estimates of the spatial extent of melting across the Greenland ice sheet in 2015, derived from spaceborne brightness temperatures recorded by the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) passive microwave radiometer (e.g., Mote 2007; Tedesco 2007; Tedesco et al. 2013), show that melting occurred over more than half of the ice sheet for the first time since the exceptional melt events of July 2012…

Fig. 4.1. Average sea ice extent in March 2015 (left) and September 2015 (right) illustrate the respective winter maximum and summer minimum extents. The magenta line indicates the median ice extents in March and September

Sea Ice

Sea ice extent is the primary descriptor of the state of the Arctic sea ice cover. Satellite-based passive microwave instruments have been used to determine sea ice extent since 1979…

Sea Surface Temperature

Summer sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Arctic Ocean are set by absorption of solar radiation into the surface layer. In the Barents and Chukchi seas, there is an additional contribution from advection of warm water from the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans, respectively. Solar warming of the ocean surface layer is influenced by the distribution of sea ice (with more solar warming in ice-free regions), and by cloud cover, water color and upper-ocean stratification…

Arctic Ocean Primary Productivity

Primary productivity is the rate at which atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide is converted by autotrophs (primary producers) to organic material. It occurs most commonly by photosynthesis (i.e., with light as an energy source) but it is also facilitated by chemosynthesis (i.e., using oxidation of methane or other reduced inorganic molecules as an energy source instead of light).

Tundra Greenness

Until recently, the above-ground biomass of Arctic tundra vegetation had been increasing, i.e., vegetation has been “greening”, for at least the past three decades (Bhatt et al. 2013, Frost and Epstein 2014)…

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