Improving Situational Awareness in the Arctic Ocean
To successfully operate in a harsh environment like the Arctic Ocean, one must be able to understand and predict how that environment will evolve over different spatial and temporal scales. This is particularly challenging given the on-going and significant environmental changes that are occurring in the region. Access to the most recent environmental information provides timely knowledge that enables ship-based operations to proceed efficiently, effectively and safely in this difficult arena. Knowledge of the evolving environmental conditions during a field campaign is critical for effective planning, optimal execution of sampling strategies, and to provide a broader context to data collected at specific times and places. We describe the collaborations and processes that enabled an operational system to be developed to provide a remote field-team, located on USCGC Healy in the Beaufort Sea, with near real-time situational awareness information regarding the weather, sea ice conditions, and oceanographic processes. The developed system included the punctual throughput of near real-time products such as satellite imagery, meteorological forecasts, ice charts, model outputs, and up to date locations of key sea ice and ocean-based assets. Science and operational users, as well as onshore personnel, used this system for real-time practical considerations such as ship navigation, and to time scientific operations to ensure the appropriate sea ice and weather conditions prevailed. By presenting the outputs of the system within the context of case studies our results clearly demonstrate the benefits that improved situational awareness brings to ship-based operations in the Arctic Ocean, both today and in the future.