Skip to content
Home » News » WDS-ITO supports SAON ROADS Shared Arctic Variables

WDS-ITO supports SAON ROADS Shared Arctic Variables

Written by Mike Morrison

The WDS-ITO is proud to support the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems (ROADS) initiative. The SAON ROADS initiative is designed to create a systematic planning mechanism to develop and link observing and data system requirements and implementation strategies in the Arctic region. Arctic observing and data systems have been widely recognized as critical infrastructures to support decision-making and understanding across sectors in the Arctic and globally yet, from the standpoint of conventional observing systems, the Arctic region is one of the most poorly observed.

To address this shortcoming, part of the SAON ROADS initiative involves supporting the concept of Shared Arctic Variables (SAVs) which can be defined as “measurable phenomena or processes that are important enough to multiple communities/sectors to make it worth the work to coordinate their acquisition across the Arctic observing community.” More specifically, observations and data systems that warrant the level of effort associated with this initiative should serve multiple sectors and data user groups while addressing priorities at the intersection of Arctic community-identified needs, regionally identified cross-sectoral needs and  those of the global observing programs, as seen in the figure below. Currently, three SAV focus areas or themes have been proposed: living on frozen ground (permafrost), sea ice, and wildfires.

Visual representation of considerations that go into creating Shared Arctic Variables (SAV)s. Three overlapping circles with their intersection at the centre coloured black with white text reading "SHARED ARCTIC VARIABLES". The top circle is light red with a lighter red imprint of a stylized fish, the bottom left circle is blue with a lighter blue imprint of a snowflake, and the bottom right circle is green with lighter green imprints of te continents, making the green circle appear as the Earth.
An ideal SAV would realize community-identified benefits in Indigenous communities (light red), support fundamental understanding of Arctic systems and regional decision-making needs (blue), and inform science and decision-making needs at the global scale and integrate with operational global networks (green). Modified from Figure 1 in Starkweather et al. (2021).

SAVs are developed in Expert Panels and build on the Essential Variable type adopted in other communities, such as the Global Ocean Observing system and the Global Climate Observing System. SAON has established an advisory panel tasked with guiding this process, and have developed expert panels (EPs) in each of the three themes who are now actively defining a subset of variables that can be used by various Arctic stakeholders. The WDS-ITO is proud to support SAON’s ROADS process by creating a synthesis document that will identify earth observation assets currently operating in the Arctic region and actively tracking variables known to influence wildfires.

The goal of this document is to ensure the EPs have all relevant information in order to recommend a subset of variables that are of importance to Arctic stakeholders on a local and regional scale in the context of wildfires, and can be linked to existing observing assets and data systems. We are in the early stages of explicitly defining subsets of variables that relate to proposed SAVs, meaning that this document could act as a ‘starting point’ for expert panelists in the future; namely those interested in permafrost (living on frozen ground) and sea ice in the Arctic region.

Additional Information: