NOAA, oil companies will share Arctic information
August 23rd, 2011 | Alaska Newspapers Staff
An agreement to enhance collaboration on ocean, coastal and climate science for the Arctic was signed today by three oil companies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA officials said the agreement with Shell Exploration & Production, ConocoPhillips, and Statoil USA E&P Inc. calls for sharing scientific data sets for the Arctic, including weather and ocean observations, biological information, and sea ice and sea floor mapping studies.
The agreement provides a framework to share high-quality data to enhance NOAA's ability to monitor climate change and provide useful products and services that inform responsible energy exploration activities in the region. Integrating these types of data could also provide a greater national capacity to effectively manage and respond to environmental disasters, such as hazardous spills, in an area where limited personnel and facilities exist, NOAA officials said.
The federal agency will conduct quality control on all data provided to the agency under this agreement before it is incorporated into NOAA products and services through compliance with Office of Management and Budget and NOAA guidelines implementing the Information Quality Act, for example, through peer review. Consistent with NOAA's commitment to openness and transparency, as highlighted most recently in its draft scientific integrity policy, NOAA will make the data obtained under this agreement available to the public except as limited by a specific annex, and will seek to have as much data as possible publicly available, NOAA officials said.
A dramatic reduction in sea ice as a result of climate change has raised new environmental, economic, and national security issues that have immediate and long-term impacts for human lives, livelihoods, coastal communities and the environment and demand extensive and collaborative analysis.
"Despite the wealth of scientific research conducted on the Arctic environment to date, much remains unknown, and no single government agency or entity has the resources or capacity to meet the task alone," said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "This innovative partnership will significantly expand NOAA's access to important data, enhance our understanding of the region and improve the United States' ability to manage critical environmental issues efficiently and effectively as climate change continues to impact the Arctic."
The collaboration will leverage the existing capabilities, assets and strengths of the signatories, bringing together NOAA's scientific expertise on weather, climate, oceans, and fisheries management with the industry parties' significant offshore experience and science initiatives in areas of potential drilling. Data and information will be shared with the public through NOAA's existing products and services to the extent possible, in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and procedures.
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