Northwest Passage

UNH hosts NSF-funded workshop on opening Arctic seas

Thursday, August 24, 2017
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Icebreaker Healy in Arctic

UNH will host "Preparing for a Northwest Passage — the Role of New England in Navigating the New Arctic," a regional research conference.

Durham may be thousands of miles from the Arctic Circle, but for two days in March it will be the epicenter for discussions about how New England will respond to changes in the Arctic. That’s when UNH will host “Preparing for a Northwest Passage — the Role of New England in Navigating the New Arctic,” an interdisciplinary research workshop funded by the National Science Foundation’s first-ever Convergence awards to address societal challenges through cross-disciplinary scientific collaboration.

With the warming effects of climate change dramatically decreasing Arctic sea ice and opening a Northwest Passage, new shipping routes and unprecedented access to the top of the world signal profound changes for New England. Changes to regional climate linked to Arctic ice melt will also have significant repercussions, especially for coastal communities and the Gulf of Maine. This workshop will gather academic expertise from around New England to explore the influence of and response to Arctic change throughout the region.

“It is rapidly becoming clear that ‘what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,’” says workshop chair Katharine Duderstadt, research scientist in the Earth Systems Research Center of UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. “It is imperative for Arctic researchers to consider the impact on lower latitudes as communities adapt to sea-level rise, changes to regional weather patterns, displaced ocean currents, modifications to ecosystems, shifts in animal migration and demographic changes from a resurgent coastal marine economy.”

With decades of research in the Arctic — from the seafloor to ice cores to permafrost and societal responses to climate change — UNH makes an ideal host for this workshop, says Duderstadt. “In addition, researchers at UNH have a reputation for being able to collaborate on systems-level, solution-driven research while retaining specialized expertise within their individual disciplines,” she says.

In preparation for this workshop, UNH will host a fall Arctic Seminar Series that is open to the public. Henry Pollack from the University of Michigan will present the first lecture, “The New Face of the Arctic,” on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. in the Squamscott Room of Holloway Commons on the Durham campus.