Ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean is retreating, leading to a more dynamic marine environment with sea ice in unexpected quantities and places. As the area becomes more accessible, cruise tourism and fisheries are increasing. Remote indigenous communities in the region need to be supplied seasonally with essential goods by boat. But cargo shipping, cruise tourism and fisheries in these waters can be risky if there is not enough information about dynamic marine conditions.
Reliable weather and sea-ice forecasts are essential for decision-making on Arctic marine operations and the safety of ships maneuvering in these remote, frozen waters. But how, when and in what form should marine climate services be made available for it to be useful and usable?
In the SALIENSEAS project coordinated by Machiel Lamers of the Environmental Policy Group (ENP) a team of social and natural scientists is working with metocean service personnel of the Danish and Norwegian Meteorological institutes, and end-users in an iterative research and co-production process, to improve the quality of Arctic marine climate services and make them accessible to end users.
Connecting scientific data to practice
‘Climate services are on the rise. This kind of sea ice forecast information is very new. How do you make that information relevant and usable for the users? We WUR social scientists are very good when it comes to connecting scientific data to practice’, says Machiel Lamers.
To explore the socioeconomic potential of sea ice forecasting services SALIENSEAS carries out a companion modelling approach, using serious gaming and agent-based modelling (ABM), to simulate decision making processes under uncertainty. This approach was chosen because the multiple stakeholders involved in the project each represent unique decision-making contexts, but together they also form a complex adaptive system with its own unique, emergent qualities. SALIENSEAS thus seeks to uncover how decisions are adapted to changing environmental conditions, and how information platforms may support or impede decision makers.
‘The project is typical for ENP’, says Lamers. ‘To work with a large number of stakeholders through a co-production process on topics such as climate adaptation, resilience and the role of digitization and information in decision-making by policymakers and social partners, suits us perfectly.’
The outcome of this project will lead to a more secure supply of goods to remote communities in the Arctic. Around 60 cruise vessel operations in the region will also benefit from this meteorological data. Tailoring of sea ice services to the needs of important shipping sectors in European Arctic waters can reduce risks, increase resilience and enhance economic opportunities for communities and sectors. ‘The consequences of climate change are already enormous in the Arctic’, says Machiel Lamers. ‘The results of this project also help us to be prepared for a future in which the consequences of climate change will also be more tangible in our region.’