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Environmental Security in Arctic Ice-Covered Seas: From Strategy to Tactics of Hazard Identification and Emergency Response

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Environmental change and increasing industrial activity in the maritime Arctic require strategies to adapt to change and ensure safe operations. This problem has been defined at the broader strategic level. We evaluate key aspects of environmental security in ice-covered waters, focusing on tactical and operational information needs, which have received less attention. Monitoring of environmental hazards and effective emergency response in sea ice environments require high-resolution data of ice hazard distributions (e.g., multiyear ice, landfast ice breakout, and ice push events), ice movement and deformation, as well as ice characteristics and dynamics relevant to emergency response. We have developed a prototype coastal observing system at Barrow, Alaska, that addresses such information needs. Imagery obtained from a marine X-band radar with a digital controller is combined with data from on-ice sensors (ice thickness, ice and water temperature, sea level) and assessments of potentially hazardous ice conditions by local experts. Digital imagery and data are processed and disseminated in near-real time. Using a combination of image processing approaches (optical flow, Lucas-Kanade tracker), ice velocity fields, floe trajectories, and boundaries of stationary ice are derived automatically. Early onset of hazardous events is detected through Hidden Markov Modeling, providing potential decision support in operational settings. We evaluate the utility of the system and strategies towards integration with broader emergency response efforts.
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Keywords: Arctic shipping; coastal observatory; environmental security; natural hazards; remote sensing; sea ice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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