Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. The Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, and integrates the co-production of knowledge. This award fulfills part of that aim.

Permafrost is ground that remains frozen for at least two consecutive years. It occurs under approximately one fourth of the northern hemisphere's land surface. In the far north, the permafrost is continuous across the landscape and contains large amounts of ice in its upper few meters. Thawing of permafrost has been observed at several locations across the Arctic in recent decades, yet the complete extent of permafrost degradation is not yet described. This is because it is difficult to directly measure permafrost. However, the presence and health of permafrost can be inferred from characteristic ground surface features. For example, permafrost can be detected from detailed satellite images through the presence of 30-meter-wide ice-wedge polygons. It is important to detect areas with thawing permafrost to identify challenges for infrastructure that depend on a foundation of solid ground. This project is developing the Permafrost Discovery Gateway, an online platform that makes permafrost information more accessible and discoverable by the public. The public includes industry, non-profit organizations, and people living and working in the Arctic. Future workforce development includes the training of graduate students and postdocs in remote sensing technology. Five early career researchers are the lead investigators. The K-12 education community are receiving virtual resources to help them interact with the Permafrost Discovery Gateway. In addition, a collaborative art exhibition, an interactive digital story, and an online Earth as Art gallery are displaying Arctic landscapes to the general public. These tools enable diverse peoples of different technical backgrounds to interact with permafrost knowledge across the entire Arctic. This project informs the economy, security, and resilience of the U.S., the larger region, and the globe with respect to Arctic change.

The main goal of this project is to develop supporting cyberinfrastructure to harness information from high-resolution satellite imagery. This approach is advancing the understanding of permafrost degradation across the entire Arctic. This project is: (1) utilizing existing Big Imagery, (2) refining and developing new automated remote sensing classification tools based on machine and deep learning techniques, (3) applying the mapping tools to Arctic satellite imagery, (4) making permafrost map products and tools publicly accessible, and (5) enabling discovery through visualization and analysis tools designed with users of the Permafrost Discovery Gateway. The project is producing a cyberinfrastructure framework that also includes existing Arctic map products. This framework, along with an engaged user community, is allowing researchers to better quantify the spatial extent of permafrost degradation across the Arctic. Potential controls (weather, topography, vegetation, soil properties) on permafrost degradation are also being evaluated. The Permafrost Discovery Gateway helps ensure information access to the broader research community and encourage new partnerships around knowledge of Arctic permafrost.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Woodwell Climate Research Center, Inc.
United States
Zip Code