Arctic GEOSS

Arctic GEOSS

The Challenge

People living in the Arctic face a rapidly changing environment and increasing human activity in the region. It is more important than ever to listen to the voices on the ground to understand people’s observing needs.

The Solution

The Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems (ROADS) has defined the process of Shared Arctic Variables (SAVs). SAVs are responsive to the information needs of everyone affected by the rapid changes in the Arctic environment, including indigenous organisations, northern communities, operational agencies, academia, industry and government. The three overlapping circles in the figure illustrate how local, regional and global scales will define SAVs.

More information about Shared Arctic Variables as a planning and implementation tool are found in Sandy Starkweather et al: Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) Roadmap for Arctic Observing and Data Systems (ROADS) and in Alice Bradley et al: Shared Arctic Variable Framework Links Local to Global Observing System Priorities and Requirements.

Our Impact

The idea is to draw on the capacity of all the communities to co-design and co-manage observing efforts by gathering representatives from each into thematic Expert Panels. These Expert Panels are currently being organised to define SAVs including priority, spatial and temporal resolution, accuracy requirements, time period, comparability, observations commitments and requirements for engaging and supporting monitoring efforts in communities.

Policy Drivers

In the Arctic Council Salekhard Declaration (2006), the Council urges “Urge Member States and other entities to strengthen monitoring and research efforts needed to comprehensively address Arctic change and to promote the establishment of a circumpolar Arctic observing network of monitoring stations with coordinated data handling and information exchange for scientific data, statistics and traditional knowledge as a lasting legacy of the IPY (and as the evolving Arctic component of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems, GEOSS)”. As a response to this, the SAON process was established in 2011 via the AC Nuuk Declaration. This declaration recognizes the “importance of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) process as a major legacy of the International Polar Year for enhancing scientific observations and data-sharing”.

How We Work

The principles to guide the ROADS process are:

  • Indigenous Peoples’ equitable partnership and funding for their active participation is critical to ROADS;
  • All aspects of the ROADS process should support broadly shared benefit from the observing and data systems;
  • The ROADS process should complement and integrate, without duplication, the current planning approaches used by existing networks (regional to global), activities, and projects;
  • ROADS should support stepwise development through a flexible and evolving structure that allows grassroots identification of themes, infrastructures, and regional foci.

Under ArcticGEOSS, these SAVs are under development: permafrost, wildfire, sea ice and food security. For three of these, pilot services are under development by the H2020-funded ArcticPASSION project

  • Pan-Arctic requirements-driven Permafrost Service;
  • Integrated Fire Risk Management (INFRA);
  • Improving Safety for Shipping in the Polar Seas.


For more information about the Arctic GEOSS explore the website

Find more