Local Observations

The sea ice is changing, and impacting everyone. (Photo: Craig George)

Observations are the foundation of the AAOKH network

Collectively, local observations provide a broad-scale view of changing coastal conditions—and ultimately impacts—at the community scale.

Arctic coastal communities have long recognized that sea ice conditions are not what they once were. The ocean is freezing later in the fall and the ice is melting earlier in the spring, shorefast ice is less stable, there is far less of the thicker multiyear ice than in the past and environmental conditions overall are less predictable.

Daily reports of ice and weather conditions and explanations of local sea ice features and events help improve interpretation of satellite imagery, which can ultimately lead to better ice forecasts and climate models.

AAOKH observers

We support local observers in communities across coastal Arctic Alaska. AAOKH’s observers provide regular observations about sea ice, wildlife and coastal waters. They are also trained to use scientific instruments to regularly measure water properties.

In addition to these contributions, AAOKH welcomes volunteer observations from anyone who has environmental information they'd like to share.

Broken sea ice. (Frank Johnson)

Observing team

  • Billy Adams, Utqiaġvik
  • Joe Mello Leavitt, Utqiaġvik
  • Guy Omnik, Point Hope
  • Steven Patkotak, Wainwright
  • Bobby Schaeffer, Kotzebue
  • Vince Schaeffer, Kotzebue
  • Carla SimsKayotuk, Kaktovik
  • Robert Tokeinna Jr., Wales

Team list last updated 2019

What happens to the observations people make?

Search for observations in an online database

From 2016-2018, AAOKH observers contributed over 1,700 observations. These are added to a database curated by the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) program

The database, which includes thousands more observations, is a combination of AAOKH observations and the Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network (SIZONet) that operated from 2006-2016.

It serves as an interface between the two distinct knowledge systems of western science and local & traditional knowledge. Go to database

View an interactive, online map that shows:

Polar bear.  (Billy Adams)

Local observations

Locations of observations on sea ice, weather, wildlife, and subsistence activities


Utqiaġvik marine radar

Detects sea ice up to 6 miles out, new image every 5 minutes

Whaling trails.

Whaling trails

Spring whaling trails built by Utqiaġvik crews

Sea ice extent.

Sea ice

Sea ice extent and concentration, including marginal ice zone and fast ice

Billy Adams taking CTD casts near Utqiaġvik.


Sampling locations for water conductivity, temperature, and depth

SAR imagery of Alaska's north coast.

SAR imagery

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) image of ice and open water offshore