Media Advisory
28 November 2011

NSIDC science at AGU: Arctic sea ice, climate change, and permafrost carbon

antarctica scene

Yankee Camp, in Antarctica, basks in the Antarctic sunlight. NSIDC researchers will bring their findings on polar regions to the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting, December 5 to 9, 2011.
—Credit: Ted Scambos, NSIDC

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientists will present new research at the 2011 American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, California, from December 5 to 9. Below, find highlights of potential interest to journalists. We also invite you to visit NSIDC in the AGU Exhibit Hall at booth numbers 1437 and 1439, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Tuesday through Friday.

NSIDC supports research into our world's frozen realms: the snow, ice, glaciers, frozen ground, and climate interactions that make up Earth's cryosphere. We work to ensure that past, present, and future science data remain accessible for studying the Earth and its climate.

Oral Presentations

A New Sea Ice Concentration Climate Data Record for Tracking Arctic and Antarctic Variability and Change

Walt Meier
4:45 p.m. Monday, December 5
Moscone West 3009

Scientists from NSIDC and NOAA are collaborating to produce a consistent, long-term data record for sea ice, to better document long-term changes in sea ice and climate. Data on sea ice extent are one of the most important indicators of climate change: in the Arctic Ocean, sea ice has declined by more than 30 percent since 1979. However, scientists use a variety of algorithms and data sources to study sea ice and the methods are not always completely documented. That can make it difficult to compare data over long periods of time, for effective measurements related to climate. The new project creates a consistent data record, developed using multiple algorithms and including estimates of uncertainties. (C14A-03)

Assessment of Arctic Sea Ice in the CMIP5 Climate Models

Julienne Stroeve
11:40 a.m. Tuesday, December 6
Moscone West 3011

Climate model simulations, prepared for the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, failed to predict the precipitous decline in Arctic sea ice extent over the last five years. NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve examines the latest model output for the next IPCC report, evaluating how well these models can predict changes in ice extent. (C21D-04)

Can we avoid the permafrost carbon tipping point?

Kevin Schaefer
10:40 a.m. Thursday, December 8
Moscone West Room 3003

Researchers predict that climate change in Arctic regions could lead to a tipping point where thawing permafrost begins to pump carbon into the atmosphere. That extra carbon would intensify the effects of climate change. When will the tipping point occurand can reducing emissions now ensure that we do not reach it? Scientists have now run a series of model projections to determine how much the temperature can increase before permafrost reaches its tipping point. (GC42B-01)

Poster presentations

Global policy implications of thawing permafrost

Kevin Schaefer
1:40 - 6 p.m., Tuesday December 6

New research by NSIDC and NOAA scientists indicates that thawing permafrost could cause the world to overshoot its target concentrations for carbon dioxide emissions, leading to a warmer climate. Global targets for fossil fuel emissions would need to be reduced by 15 percent in order to account for this extra carbon, the researchers say. For more information on the science of permafrost carbon, make sure to also attend Shaefer's related talk, "Can we avoid the permafrost carbon tipping point?" (PA23C-1759)

The evolution of the data scientist

Mark Parsons
8:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m., Tuesday December 6

What is a data scientist? NSIDC data expert Mark Parsons illustrates one man's journey in data science and how it echoed the evolution of the discipline. He explores how the discipline got to where it is today and how it continues to evolve in a data ecosystem where researchers work with ever larger and more complicated data sets, across many disciplines. (IN21B-1421)

For a full list of talks and posters presented by NSIDC staff, see NSIDC Talks, Posters, and Presentations at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Conference.

For further inquiries, please contact or +1 303.492.1497.
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For more information about the American Geophysical Union fall meeting, visit the AGU Web site at

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