Dr. Hajo Eicken

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Hajo Eicken is Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Before joining the University of Alaska, Dr. Eicken was a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute where he was the head of a research group for sea ice physics and remote sensing. Dr. Eicken’s research interests include studies of the growth, evolution, and properties of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. He is particularly interested in determining how microscopic and macroscopic properties affect larger-scale sea-ice processes and its role in the climate system. In Alaska, Dr. Eicken has spent time on the ice to learn more about the different uses of the sea ice environment and its role in polar ecosystems. Dr. Eicken has participated in several icebreaker expeditions in both hemispheres.

https://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/people/eicken/

In his own words: My main research interests are in the field of sea-ice geophysics. In particular, I am interested in how small-scale properties and (micro)structure of sea ice impact processes on a larger scale as well as the role of sea ice in the climate system. As part of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2009 I am part of an international group that is studying the seasonal Arctic ice zone through an observing network (SIZONet). You can learn more about this project by visiting the SIZONet site or one of the following web pages: Arctic Observing Network Data site, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Barrow Sea Ice Observatory.

One of the main interests of our group here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to study in more depth the multiple uses of sea ice as well as its important role in coastal environments. This work ties in with a broader range of activities at the University of Alaska that aim to examine how we as scientists can improve access to the vast amount of data collected during the IPY and beyond in order to help different users of the sea ice (local communities, indigenous populations, industry, government and others) make better planning decisions.

In a rapidly changing Arctic, where sea ice plays an important role not just in the physical environment but also in the context of ecosystems, geopolitics, indigenous knowledge and use as well as economic development, it takes communication and collaboration between different disciplines and interest groups to help us address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that come with change in a responsible and sustainable fashion. I invite you to visit the web pages describing the sea ice research, look at publications by our group or visit the UA IPY North by 2020 Forum‘s web site. If you are a student interested in working on these topics, please get in touch, visit the Department of Geology and Geophysics‘ web pages or have a look at the Resilience and Adaptation Program (RAP) here at UAF which provides opportunities for research and education on these issues in a broader, interdisciplinary context.

Interviews

2009

Dr. Hajo Eicken, a glaciologist and professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses his research focus on sea ice and its interactions with ecosystems and the climate system. Dr. Eicken describes his fieldwork and laboratory work, including studying ice behavior on both small and large scales. He emphasizes the importance of understanding how liquids and organisms move through sea ice. He also mentions his interest in working in areas where people have a deep knowledge of the ice cover, such as Alaska with its Iñupiaq Eskimo communities. Dr. Eicken acknowledges the value of combining traditional knowledge with geophysical and glaciological perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of ice. He highlights the collaborative approach of working with local communities and incorporating their expertise into research design and question formulation. The interview concludes with Dr. Eicken discussing the significance of studying ice stability and how detailed local knowledge contributes to understanding factors like currents, wind, and topography at specific locations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses research conducted at the ice observatory in Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, focusing on understanding changes in Arctic sea ice. The interview highlights the importance of studying ice cover changes, such as thinning and reflectivity, from both a climate perspective and the perspective of local communities. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the need to combine scientific questions with the practical implications for people and animals relying on the ice. The research involves mapping ice trails, determining ice thickness, and studying the interaction between coastal and offshore ice. They aim to improve climate models and forecast seasonal sea ice while investigating observed changes in the ice cover. The multidisciplinary approach seeks to bridge scientific understanding with real-world applications in the Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the unique characteristics of sea ice and its significance in the Arctic. He explains that sea ice forms a landscape that undergoes rapid changes within a short time frame, similar to the long-term evolution of natural landscapes on Earth. Dr. Eicken highlights the scientific interest in studying sea ice due to its high temperature relative to its melting point, allowing for insights into the evolution of rocks and other materials at high temperatures. He shares his personal journey into Arctic research, influenced by his experiences on an icebreaker cruise in the AntArctic and the interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists in that setting. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the importance of studying sea ice from multiple perspectives and fostering collaboration between different groups, such as indigenous communities, industry experts, and researchers, to better understand sea ice behavior and its implications for various interests in the Arctic, including climate, resource exploration, and local communities. He also discusses the evolving nature of scientific research, which now recognizes the value of integrating different perspectives, such as data analysis, modeling, and local expertise, to enhance understanding and inform measurements and experiments in the field.

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This is sea ice animation video

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2022

Dr. Hajo Eicken, director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the changes in the Arctic. He notes the decline of sea ice, leading to open waters and coastal erosion. There has also been a surprising loss of winter sea ice, impacting fish stocks and prompting international discussions on managing fisheries. These changes highlight the urgent need for action in the face of a rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the career progress of former student Matt Druckenmiller and the importance of involving indigenous communities in their work. He also highlights the advancements made by PhD student Oliver Damon in understanding sea ice landscapes using state-of-the-art models and satellite technology. These developments contribute to safer navigation in the ice environment and enhance our understanding of the changing Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken highlights the proactive role of indigenous peoples in dealing with environmental challenges for centuries. As the director of a research institute, he emphasizes their collaboration with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub. These efforts involve developing plans, tools, and resilience strategies in partnership with various tribes and communities to adapt to climate change. Dr. Eicken also commends the leadership of Donna Hauser in the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub, which engages communities and indigenous graduate students in observing and studying the impacts of sea ice changes, coastal erosion, and fisheries-related transformations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken shares his experience with the U.S. Navy’s search for suitable ice flows for their high-stakes experiments. He explains the challenges they face in finding specific types of ice, such as stable multi-year ice, thin ice for submarines, and level ice for landing planes. Dr. Eicken reflects on how the changing Arctic conditions have made this task increasingly difficult, with fewer suitable ice flows available. The process of identifying and locating these ice flows involves satellite imagery and aerial reconnaissance, highlighting the complexity and limited options in today’s Arctic environment.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the impact of changing sea ice conditions on the migration patterns and cultural activities of bowhead whales in North Slope communities. Collaborating with wildlife management departments, researchers have observed that bowhead whales benefit from less summer ice, enabling them to feed more effectively. The presence of open water and ice leads also allows bowheads to be present throughout the winter, facilitating hunting and whale observations. However, the timing of the fall hunt has shifted significantly, with the fall freeze-up occurring later by two to three weeks every decade. This change presents challenges for communities as they navigate wavy conditions and adapt to the absence of ice in the water.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken is a renowned expert in the study of ice, particularly sea ice in the Arctic. His extensive research has yielded significant insights and advancements in understanding the behavior and evolution of sea ice at both the micro and macro scales. Dr. Eicken’s work has focused on the microstructural composition of ice, its stability, formation, and decay, as well as its impact on various applications such as nutrient fluxes and oil spill management. Additionally, he has contributed to the coordination and management of Arctic coastal ice, providing valuable knowledge on its seasonality and implications for different users. Furthermore, Dr. Eicken is actively involved in the global effort to recognize the crucial role of sea ice as a climate regulator, ecosystem supporter, and habitat for biodiversity. His work aims to improve observations and predictions of sea ice, ensuring better access to information for decision-making, particularly for indigenous communities. With ongoing research and collaborations, Dr. Eicken continues to make significant contributions to the field while recognizing the challenges that lie ahead in understanding and managing sea ice in a changing climate.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken, a researcher and advocate for climate change solutions, emphasizes the importance of human behavior and decision-making in addressing this global issue. He believes that bringing together different knowledge systems is crucial for finding effective solutions. While progress may seem slow, Dr. Eicken remains optimistic, seeing a shift towards more progressive thinking, especially among young scientists. He highlights the need to support and empower early-career researchers who are working towards innovative solutions. Based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Eicken is cautiously optimistic about the ongoing efforts to tackle climate change challenges, particularly in relation to climate justice, energy justice, and sustainability. He also acknowledges the resilience of indigenous communities in the face of climate change and their ability to adapt to new challenges. However, Dr. Eicken emphasizes that collective responsibility is necessary to prevent further harm and underscores the importance of proactive measures in addressing climate change.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses various aspects of Arctic research, focusing on the stable isotope composition of sea ice and snow. He notes a significant shift in the local sources of moisture, indicating increased humidity in the Arctic. This change in moisture sources has implications for cloudiness, which Dr. Eicken is interested in studying. Dr. Eicken expresses excitement about upcoming research flights to examine pollution impacts on clouds and the effects of oil and gas development on Arctic processes. He highlights the transformation of the ice pack due to the loss of multi-year ice, resulting in more open water and changes in the ice pack’s composition and structure.

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