The Environmental Working Group Arctic Atlases on CD-ROM

EWG LogoThe original version of this Web page was published in 2002. It was edited in 2013 by F. Fetterer.

The Arctic encompasses a strategic position between North America and Russia. The Arctic Ocean provides the shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western Russia, and the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route are important seasonal waterways. These factors, with natural resources that include fish, seals, whales, and oil and gas fields, have influenced exploration and intelligence-gathering in the Arctic by world superpowers from the 11th century on.

As the Arctic's perennially-drifting polar ice pack, forbidding conditions, and long night have progressively yielded to study, scientists eager to share information have promoted collaboration between nations. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) was established in June 1995 under the framework of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation. In January 1996, the EWG Arctic Climatology Group took on the task of compiling digital data on arctic regions to expand scientific understanding of the Arctic. This work resulted in a set of three atlases on CD-ROM for arctic oceanography, sea ice, and meteorology.

These atlases contain historical and new information, including some previously classified data. The EWG Arctic ocean, sea ice, and meteorology atlases include a variety of observations painstakingly recorded over the past century in one of the most hostile climates on the planet. In these Atlas, you will find Russian and Western perspectives on the Arctic climate system, along with a host of atmospheric, oceanographic, and cryospheric data, maps, histories, and climate and weather facts.

The EWG sea ice, meteorology, and oceanography atlases were published from 1997 to 2001. The Environmental Research Institute of Michigan led work on the sea ice and ocean atlas. NSIDC led work on the meteorology atlas. NSIDC was charged with distributing the final atlas products. While CD-ROMs may still be requested, the products are available as digital downloads from the links below.

Dr. James Baker, former NOAA Administrator, and Dr. V. I. Danilov-Danilyan, former Chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Environmental Protection, co-chaired the EWG during the development of these atlases. Norbert Untersteiner, Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington, and Vladimir Grishenko, Deputy Director of AARI, co-chaired the EWG Subgroup for Arctic Climatology.

Environmental Working Group Joint U.S.-Russian Atlas of the Arctic Ocean
When this oceanographic atlas was released, it more than doubled the scientific holdings of oceanographic data available to U.S. scientists. It contains hydrographic fields for decadal periods (1950s,1960s, 1970s, 1980s) that were developed using more than one million individual observations collected from Russian drifting stations, ice breakers, and airborne expeditions. U.S. buoy observations were declassified by the U.S. Navy for this project. The story of this atlas's development is detailed in the National Geographic article "An Arctic Breakthrough," Feb. 1997.

Environmental Working Group Joint U.S.-Russian Arctic Sea Ice Atlas
This sea ice atlas features climatologies of sea ice chart data from Russian and U.S. ice centers. It is based on observations collected over the period 1950 through 1994 from U.S. Russian satellite data, ice stations, icebreakers, and airborne ice surveys. Additionally, U.S. submarines operating in the Arctic over the period from 1977 through 1993 collected data used for a previously classified ice climatology. See the NOAA October 2000 press release announcing this CD-ROM.

Arctic Climatology Project - EWG Arctic Meteorology and Climate Atlas
This meteorologic atlas provides information about life on Russian North Pole drifting stations and weather hazards in the Russian Arctic from documents translated from Russian to English. Along with a summary of the history of Arctic exploration from both Russian and U.S. vantage points, this atlas includes an article about native Inuit climate knowledge. Maps of air temperature, sea level pressure, precipitation, cloud cover, and snow and solar radiation from drifting and coastal stations are featured. A photo gallery from early North Pole stations, an arctic weather primer, and an English-Russian glossary of meteorological terms round out this volume and make it an ideal educational tool. See the NOAA October 2000 press release announcing this CD-ROM. See also the accompanying Arctic Climatology and Meteorology Primer.