Finland's Chairmanship of the Arctic Council: Exploring Common Solutions in Arctic Meteorology
A discussion on meteorological cooperation in the Arctic, as part of Finland's Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
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The country of Finland serves as chair of the Arctic Council through May 2019. As part of its chairmanship goals, Finland has committed to advancing meteorological cooperation and capacity building. Further developing meteorological cooperation allows improved monitoring and observation networks, better management of climate and water-related risks, and more accurate forecasting of meteorological phenomena in the Arctic. Toward this goal, Finland organized the Arctic Meteorology Summit in Levi, Lapland, Finland in March 2018. One of the many productive components of the meeting was the engaging, sustained dialogue between different yet related stakeholders.
In an effort to continue this work, the Embassy of Finland in the U.S., the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and the Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative convened a broad spectrum of representatives to share the results and recommendations from the March meeting and further explore the current state of Arctic meteorology and the future needs of the scientific community.
“This area not only is in need of understanding, capacity-building effort, and continued international cooperation, but here in Washington, D.C., it’s important for those policymakers –especially those who allocate resources and try to better align efforts, not just in our nation, but with nations across the world – to better understand the concept of the role of meteorological work in the Arctic and what capacities we all have to leverage this expertise, especially in the changing climate that we are all experiencing across the globe.”
Amb. Aleksi Härkönen
“The Arctic Council is taking a close look at the relationship between regional and global developments, especially climate change and globalization. It seems that a limited regional approach will not be sufficient when we are facing the challenges of the future. Still, of course, action on a regional scale is necessary because of the rapid changes that will affect humans and nature more quickly in the Arctic than elsewhere. And it must be based on the best available knowledge and take fully into account the needs of Arctic indigenous people and other Arctic inhabitants.”
“There are great challenges in Arctic cooperation. One is the generally negative trend in international relations. The international situation has been tense for some years and it’s not showing any signs of getting any easier. Syria, Iran, Ukraine, and other issues continue to dominate the divisive international agenda. Still, Finland’s experience of the first year of Arctic chairmanship is that the cool heads have prevailed in Arctic cooperation. All member states of the Arctic Council want to continue constructive cooperation.”
“One of the fundamental questions for the Arctic Council is the involvement of non-Arctic states with interests in the region and perhaps with plans to use the opening of maritime transport routes and Arctic energy, mineral resources, and other resources. The recently published Arctic policy document of the People’s Republic of China points to the kind of questions that need to be addressed when the Arctic becomes more accessible.”
“One of our primary goals from the beginning was to get WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Arctic Council more close together so that they could do things in a sustained way and establish a collaboration that would last, say, forever, because whatever we do and whenever we establish, for example, observations or capacities in the Arctic areas, we have to be able to sustain them in the future as well.”
“Weather is boss. It is the first thing that we have to understand. But, of course, since Arctic areas are rapidly changing due to global phenomena, the risks are changing. We have a lot of things that we may know, but we have to explore more, so we have a variety of things we don’t know yet. And this can only be done through international cooperation. We can’t solve anything like this by ourselves, by one single country. We have to cooperate.”
“We need to identify the threats caused by Arctic climate change. We are seeing unprecedented change in air temperature and that is affecting sea ice, glaciers, permafrost, and hydrology. But, of course, the cryosphere is very sensitive to any changes in temperature. We are also seeing ocean acidification that is really a concern, especially for countries like Iceland that live very much on the ocean.”
“We need to enhance the collaboration among meteorological communities in the Arctic... If you can sustain this priority in the future within the Arctic Council – and, of course, in Iceland we are working on that – that will make it much easier for the Arctic countries to share important meteorological information.”
"We need to identify the threats that climate change is causing in the Arctic, and we also need to understand the role of the Arctic in the earth’s climate system... And actually, this question is really generating huge interest in the Arctic from non-Arctic countries because they are already feeling the impact of these changes on their own day-to-day weather."
“It’s not good enough anymore, as we approach the end of second decade of the 21st century, to merely provide weather information to people... What is incumbent upon us as meteorologists is to find a way to integrate the information and the added value we provide as meteorologists, as oceanographers, into the decision-making process.”
“Alaska is where climate change meets weather, and we see a lot of weather events – high-impact weather events that are exacerbated by the climate change, whether it’s melting permafrost, whether it is the lack of sea ice... and a lot of other derivative sorts of weather and water impacts that are impacting not just the folks that live in Alaska.”
“It’s been told to me on many occasions that the ecosystem is really the refrigerator for the indigenous population, meaning that if you’re a hunter-gatherer-fisher-harvester, you’re gathering berries and things off the tundra, you’re certainly harvesting maybe caribou or moose or bear, you’re catching fish, you’re harvesting marine mammals. So, if you contaminate that environment, then you contaminate the food supply. It would be like someone throwing bath water into your refrigerator.”
“I would suggest that we start looking at how to demonstrate our ability to work together to have a truly collaborative Arctic relationship. Having something as simple as a weekly call between nations that would be run every week by a different organization so that the burden wouldn’t be on one, writing a short summary to talk about impacts, and then publishing it on WMO or another website… could be a simple demonstration project that would cost nothing more than a little bit of time.”
“Lack of observations is one of the key issues, and satellites are the key to monitoring those kind of things.”
“As more nations get into the global observation viewpoint, data shared is so much more valuable than data hoarded… The more data shared, the better off we all are. That’s certainly true in the satellite world.”
1:00pm: Welcoming remarks by Michael Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative
1:05pm: Opening remarks by Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials
1:15pm: Panel 1: The State of Arctic Meteorology
- Panelist: Juhani Damski, Director General, Finnish Meteorological Institute
- Panelist: Arní Snorrason, Director General, Icelandic Meteorological Institute
- Panelist: Carven Scott, Director, Alaska Region, National Weather Service, NOAA
- Moderator: Michael Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative
3:00pm: Panel 2: Solutions for the Future of Arctic Meteorology
- Panelist: Jouni Pulliainen, Director, Arctic Space Center, Finnish Meteorological Institute
- Panelist: Arní Snorrason, Director General, Icelandic Meteorological Institute
- Panelist: Carven Scott, Director, Alaska Region, National Weather Service
- Panelist: Jack Kaye, Associate Director for Research, Earth Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA
- Moderator: John Farrell, Executive Director, United States Arctic Research Commission
5:30pm: Reception at the Embassy of Finland
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