Array Of 17 Stations Will Help National Park Service Track Climate Events in Alaska

Long-term climate monitoring stations, such as this one at Kenai Fjords National Park, are being installed at National Park System units in northern Alaska to help the agency better track climate trends. NPS photo.

In the coming year technicians will install an array of 17 remote automated stations in five national park areas in northern Alaska to help the National Park Service track climate trends.

The stations, which will be solar-powered, are intended to collect a variety of scientific data to help improve weather and climate data gathering in the region, the Park Service said in a release. The Arctic Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Program was established several years ago as one of 32 such networks across the country.

The instruments will be installed in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (4 sites), Noatak National Preserve (6 sites), Kobuk Valley National Park (1 site), Cape Krusenstern National Monument (2 sites), and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (4 sites). The climate stations will be located on Park Service-administered lands, with installation of the stations expected to be completed sometime in 2012.

"These climate stations will collect basic weather observations including air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, and snow depth and transmit these observations hourly via satellite," the agency said. "These observations will be posted to the Western Regional Climate Center’s (WRCC) web site in near real-time (http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/NPS.html), where they will be available to climate scientists and other users."

“The stations are designed for remote, high latitude, extreme cold conditions," said Gates of the Arctic Superintendent Greg Dudgeon. “We’ve minimized the visual and physical impact by making the stations as compact as possible. They’ll be powered year-round by a solar panel and batteries.”

According to Dr. Robert Winfree, the regional science advisor for the Park Service in Alaska, "large portions of the five parks have no climate station coverage, and the new stations will help to fill major gaps in our understanding high-latitude weather patterns. Deployment of 17 climate stations within the parks will better position the NPS to detect climate trends and extreme weather events, to protect wilderness resources within the context of rapid climate change.

“Climate monitoring in parks is critical to informed resource management decisions and also contributes to broader-scale climate monitoring and modeling efforts,” he said.

Recognizing the potential for substantial climate-related impacts to park and wilderness areas, the NPS has completed climate change response strategies for the National Park System and for the Alaska Region. Both documents stress the importance of providing park and wilderness managers with accurate and detailed information about the status, trend, and spatial distribution of ongoing and projected changes in key climate attributes, along with information about which areas are most likely to experience relatively rapid or severe changes. Documents are available at http://www.nps.gov/akso/climatechange.html

Comments

Is it "climate" stations or "weather" stations. We've long been told not to confuse the two terms.

Good point. Should be "climate" throughout.

Can the information from the sites be accessed in "real time, thus being less likely the information could be altered (This has happened before). It is such now days that agendas take precedent over "reality" in more cases than one would expect. Science has had a free ride until those interpreting data have let their personal inclinations and financial interests overcome better judgement. I apologize to those that have remained true against those pressures which are significant.

Is "near real-time" good enough?

These observations will be posted to the Western Regional Climate Center’s (WRCC) web site in near real-time (http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/NPS.html)

Don't really fancy seeing this metal technological contraptions when backpacking in a remote location expecting to only see nature at its wildest.

Brad makes an interesting point.

Will these instruments compromise the park integrity and leave them impaired?

There is reason to question the concern of this Secretary of the Interior to the spirit of the wilderness laws in the context of his priority for having the White House notice his efforts to be part of the team for the President's priority for action on global warming and climate change. The Washington Post and other outlets have already noticed that Salazar's reputation with the White House sunk deeper than the ocean, following his failure to improve the enforcement and regulation of off-shore oil drilling BEFORE the BP blowout in the Gulf. Could Secretary Salazar be trying to rehabilitate himself at the cost of park impairment?

Just in reading this piece by Kurt, and glancing at the attachments, they read as if designed primarily to avoid legal efforts to force the NPS to comply with policy and law on parks and wilderness. The NPS here seems to be trying to say wilderness management requires these instruments. Management requirements are one of the few exceptions sometimes available to violate wilderness and park laws. But even those require scrutiny and minimum impact.

Could the NPS be inserting all this legal language to justify a policy of Secretary Salazar that really has little to do with the actual management needs of the parks?

The primary justification seems to be loss of resources from coastal erosion.

Take Gates of the Arctic. When the military and other federal agencies tried to force the NPS to install aids to navigation and other exceptions for "national security" the NPS successfully fought them off. Gates of the Arctic would get 4 of these contraptions.

Are they within the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness boundaries?

The Gates of the Arctic old General Management Plan emphasized wilderness purity to the extent that the NPS identified pretty drastic steps to avoid trail formation, visible camp sites, and even NPS management facilities. There was a large controversy over even including any radio repeaters for ranger emergency communications. But here, supposedly because the information will be required to manage the park, these instruments ARE being permitted.

Yet, the Gates of the Arctic has no coast line. Is Secretary Salazar saying the wilderness statutes and park statutes for GATES OF THE ARCTIC can be violated to gather information about some other part of Alaska?

That sounds dangerously like the argument the advocates for aids to navigation equipment and waivers for military maneuvers tried to use. They had nothing to do with needs of park management then. Inserting language to make it appear this equipment has management purposes for Gates of the Arctic could be a slick lawyers trick, not in keeping with the spirit of the law.

I wonder if the park Superintendent or the Secretary could even identify ONE TANGIBLE action or program within Gates of the Arctic that they could conceive that might be implemented on the ground, as a result of any conceivable data gathered from these intrusions?

It is easy to be suspicious after seeing how the Secretary undermined the spirit of the Endangered Species Act in the way he treated the Grey Wolves. In that case, he violated his promises to base his decisions on science when he went along with the Bush Era errors. He ignored his promise to avoid the surprises and the kind of stealth-attack approach of the Bush people used. And, he pretty much set up the dangerous precedent Congress took in the Budget negotiations compromised, when it ignored the science and for the first time declared by fiat (not science or the due process of the court cases underway) wolves unendangered. Then, he did nothing to insist to President Obama and the Budget negotiators that, without undermining the spirit of the Act, they find a more appropriate way of dealing with the wolf issue.

With a Bush-Era official as Regional Director and the Obama-Era Secretary of Interior following the Bush tactics, it is easy to wonder just how carefully were these impairment decisions examined by people who care about the spirit of the wilderness Act and the National Park System organic Act.