Local Observations

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 observers provide regular observations about sea ice, wildlife and coastal waters. AAOKH also provides 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
  • Carla SimsKayotuk, Kaktovik

Team list last updated 2022

What happens to the observations people make?

Search for observations in an online database

Since 2016, AAOKH observers have contributed over 2,000 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.

AAOKH also uses observations to create synthesis products to communicate observing themes and changes in subsistence calendars and activities.