Our History



The National Academy of Sciences published a study  - Toward an Integrated Arctic Observing Network - on the severity of the Arctic region’s environmental changes and their myriad implications for national and global welfare. This report outlines the need and potential scope, composition, and implementation strategy for an pan-Arctic observing network.



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) led a report through the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee’s (IARPC) - Arctic Observing Network: Toward a U.S. Contribution to Pan-Arctic Observing. The publication provided a summary of federal Arctic observing activities along with a strategy for enhanced coordination and integration of these activities.


The Sustaining Arctic Observing Network (SAON) was established to formally organize multinational partnerships for pan-Arctic observing needs as recognized in the Arctic Council’s Nuuk Declaration. After SAON’s formalization, the US Arctic research community continued to study and advance national AON capabilities, as detailed in IARPC’s 2013-2017 research plan.



A report from the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) - Designing, Optimizing, and Implementing an Arctic Observing Network - described the status of the Arctic Observing Network and laid out recommendations for the future. The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States hosts a full archive of SEARCH materials.


NOAA established the US AON office and an interagency Board to encourage U.S. interests and efforts towards an international AON. This was the beginning of US AON as we know it today.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with SAON, funded the development of an Arctic-specific societal benefits framework - the International Arctic Observations Assessments Framework. This gave US AON and others a starting point to measure existing Arctic observing infrastructure efficacy in supporting important societal benefits, such as food security, fundamental understanding of Arctic systems, and disaster preparedness.



US AON began an interagency consultative phase to inform the organization's direction. Among the key recommendations were that US AON:

  • Align with and support IARPC
  • Align with and support SAON
  • Adopt Aligned, Systematic Planning Approaches

The current US AON structure is designed to support all of these recommendations. Later, IARPC released a new Arctic Research Plan (2017-2021), which includes “Strengthening and Integrating Arctic Observations and Data Sharing” as a key theme and specific deliverables to support US AON.


The Board undertook an internal planning and visioning phase.



The US AON Board released a Terms of Reference, after concluding it's internal planning phase.


The US AON Board and IARPC agencies prepared a report for OSTP to submit to Congress: On the Need to Establish and Maintain a Sustained Arctic Observing Network

IARPC released the Arctic Research Plan (2022-2026). Observing is included in one of the foundational areas in the new plan, underlining its importance to advancing research goals in the Arctic.





US AON, SAON, and other Arctic Nations, the State of Alaska and Alaskan Tribal Governments, Industry, academia, and other NGOs remain committed to the continued advancements of a robust and effective pan-Arctic Observing Network. The US AON Board and linked activities continue to be a hub for connecting dispersed efforts and better aligning Arctic observations with community and science needs.