Arctic Domain Awareness Center Officially Opened

By MarEx 2015-11-04 14:02:18

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) have officially launched the Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC) at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). The ADAC is a new effort that enhances the DHS and U.S. Coast Guard’s capacity to respond to and prepare for emergencies and to better understand the Arctic environment and its challenges.

“ADAC has already begun developing systems and partnering with rural Alaska communities to improve maritime situational awareness and crisis response in the Arctic environment,” said ADAC executive director Dr Helena Wisniewski. “The systems we are developing can be replicated nationally and exported to serve as a benchmark for other nations.”

On August 31, 2015, President Obama visited Alaska and set out an agenda to address climate change issues. Increases in navigation, tourism and oil exploration, along with more variable sea ice, coastal erosion, storms and changing geopolitics demand immediate attention. ADAC will play an important role in tackling them. Not only will ADAC provide more educational opportunities in terms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholarships, it also will expand research and student opportunities in the areas of arctic modeling, data fusion and navigation simulation. 

ADAC development of critical Arctic data – ranging from weather, ship traffic, search and rescue capability, subsistence activity, offshore drilling and more – can be integrated through a system that allows decision makers with the U.S. Coast Guard and DHS to analyze, anticipate and better prepare for a range of scenarios that they will inevitably face.

“The Coast Guard is excited about the relationship the Department of Homeland Security has formed with UAA,” said Rear Admiral Daniel B. Abel, Commander, Seventeenth Coast Guard District. “As the department’s lead in the Arctic, we have a critical need for the best, most accurate and timely information from the far latitudes. ADAC will fuse the best of the academic community, industry, fellow DHS components, plus local, state, tribal and village sources for equipping the response decision maker. It is only armed with the clear “what is” that the Coast Guard can best decide on the “what next” ensuring the safety, security and environmental stewardship of our Arctic waters and coast.”

ADAC works with 16 other university, institutional and industry partners in four research areas: maritime domain awareness, maritime situational awareness and response support, maritime technology research and integrated education. ADAC also collaborates with community observers in the Native Village of Gambell, and will expand its Community Based Observer Networks across the region.

Some of the projects already underway include:

Integrated Intelligent System of Systems (IISOS) for Maritime Situational Awareness and Response Support in uncertain Arctic environments

IISOS will improve situational awareness for maritime responders by integrating and analyzing data from ADAC developed remote sensors, event modeling, community based observer networks, databases, unmanned autonomous vehicles and communication devices. It will provide incident commanders with actionable information to respond to intentional and unintentional catastrophic events. It will also provide predictive models that can be used for preparing and planning for such events. For example, it will enhance the U.S. Coast Guard's ability to prepare for and respond to oil spills in the Arctic Ocean, to more safely and reliably conduct search and rescue missions, and to support DHS efforts to prepare and plan for disasters caused by large coastal storms.

Community Based Observer Networks (CBONS)

CBONS is integrating an indigenous knowledge-based approach with technology to systematically observe and document Arctic environmental and globalization changes - vessel tracking, incursions and arctic sea ice. The initial location will be Alaska's St. Lawrence Island, which has demonstrated integration of community-based sea ice observations with the Arctic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) - a  web based GIS tool for emergency responders. ADAC will expand on the existing CBONS framework and methodology to include additional observation categories and to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensing networks and new communication devices.

Arctic Sea Ice and Storm Surge Modeling

This project is developing new real time higher resolution models for now-casting and forecasting of sea ice (e.g., concentrations, thickness, flow) and ocean currents in the North West passage that can be used to assist in navigation for search and rescue missions. Models will build on the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and the University of Washington's Marginal Ice Zone Modeling and Assimilation System. This will support OHS efforts to prepare and plan for disasters caused by large coastal storms and to more safely and reliably conduct search and rescue missions.

Arctic Oil Spill Modelling

This project is developing a new General National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Oil Modeling Environment (GNOME) based oil spill response model to enhance capabilities to assess, predict, and monitor the effects and development of oil spills in the Arctic. The new model will provide real time high-resolution models that incorporate sea ice, temperature, ocean currents, and storm surges to enhance Coast Guard’s ability to prepare for and respond to oil spills in the Arctic.

New Low-Cost Wireless Sensors for Arctic Monitoring

ADAC is developing low-cost, wireless sensors that do not require batteries for remote Arctic monitoring. These low power sensors can form ad-hoc sensor networks for remote vessel tracking, surveillance, and monitoring of climate change (e.g., ice flow, depth). These sensors can collect, transmit, and store data for long periods of time without external power. They can then transmit the data to unmanned aerial sensors or vessels of opportunity.