Polar Knowledge Canada and NASA will Collaborate to Study Vulnerability of Arctic and Boreal Region

News Release

June 16, 2016 — Ottawa, Ontario — Polar Knowledge Canada

Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States (NASA) have signed an agreement to coordinate environmental research and monitoring activities in the western Canadian Arctic. This involves ensuring close alignment of NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) with POLAR’s planned science activities in this region. The ABoVE study will run for 8 to 10 years and includes the Arctic and boreal regions of western Canada and Alaska, which are changing rapidly because of a warming climate. ABoVE, which is led by NASA, aims to:

  • gain a better understanding of the vulnerability of Arctic and boreal ecosystems to environmental change
  • provide scientific knowledge to guide the development of adaptation strategies at local to international levels.

ABoVE scientists will analyse data collected by aircraft, satellite, and field-based observations, and use the results to improve and apply models that predict the impacts of environmental changes.

This involves implementation of an integrated research and monitoring program across the Canadian North building on existing efforts by involving a number of Canadian and US research partners.  Collaborating directly with NASA’s ABoVE program provides a timely opportunity to dramatically leverage current and planned Canadian research and monitoring efforts.

This work addresses two of POLAR’s science priorities:

  • Baseline information to prepare for northern sustainability
  • Predicting the impacts of changing ice, permafrost and snow on shipping, infrastructure and communities.


“This agreement between NASA and Polar Knowledge Canada represents a synergy of the unique strengths of both organizations: NASA’s superb remote sensing capability, and POLAR’s networks, northern connections, and on-the-ground capacity. It brings us a step closer to achieving our mutual objective of advancing our understanding of climate change impacts in the North and creating the knowledge needed to plan adaptation. This is especially important for northern inhabitants, who are already experiencing the effects of climate change.”

Dr. David J. Scott, President, Polar Knowledge Canada

 Quick Facts

  • Climate change is occurring in the Arctic and Boreal region faster than most regions of the planet, causing changes to the landscape and environment. The northern Indigenous peoples who live there are already adapting their travel and land use patterns as a result.
  • The ABoVE program was launched in 2015 and is expected to run for 8-10 years.
  • Canada’s contributions will be largely in-kind, including equipment and infrastructure such as the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, RadarSat-2, ground-based data collection and research, coordination of existing northern research and monitoring programs, and development of decision-support tools.
  • POLAR’s collaboration with ABoVE will provide shared access to data and domain-wide products and decision-support tools.
  • POLAR and NASA’s collaboration was highlighted during Prime Minister Trudeau’s March 10th meeting with President Obama.
  • Polar Knowledge Canada is a Government of Canada agency with a mandate to advance Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic and strengthen Canadian leadership in polar science and technology.


Associated Links


Polar Knowledge Canada

RadarSat 2



John Bennett


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Hon. Carolyn Bennett Polar Knowledge Canada Nature and Environment

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