Feds address Arctic climate research

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Arctic climate research should focus on such concerns as rising winter temperatures, thinning sea ice and thawing permafrost, said the Bush administration's global climate change program director.

James R. Mahoney, assistant Secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said Monday a 13-agency group will release a plan June 25 outlining these and other priority areas for federal research.

Mahoney spoke in Arlington, Va., at the annual meeting of the Arctic Science Consortium of the United States, a group of agencies and research institutions with headquarters in Fairbanks.

Mahoney named several other areas that need further research changes in the distribution of animals and plants, more freshwater flowing from Siberian rivers and recent Arctic Ocean temperature increases.

The role of the Arctic in climate change is a focal point of our U.S. global change and climate change science program,'' he said.

Mahoney said recent Arctic Ocean temperature increases are an example of the intriguing but still uncertain facts indicating the global climate's direction, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

He showed the audience a color-coded chart reflecting all historic air temperature readings from longitudes around the Arctic. Since 1985, he noted, we see a predominance of red, which represents warming or positive temperature anomalies.''

The chart showed the years between 1960 and 1985 predominantly green, depicting a cooling trend, but that period was preceded by stripes of red in many regions.

The challenge is to find a believable mechanism'' to explain the variations, Mahoney said.

So I consider this an ideal illustration of both the importance and relevance of information of change that must be addressed, and a demonstration of some of the confounding information,'' he said.

Mahoney also described how an influx of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean from Siberian rivers and other sources could upset the water currents that now dominate.

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