Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Kevin Wood joined JISAO in 2004 after spending twenty-five years sailing the world ocean on research vessels and square-rigged sailing ships. His interest in the historical climatology of the polar regions stems from his experience teaching on sail-training ships much like those used by 19th century explorers, and from working on research vessels in the ice-covered seas of the Arctic and Antarctic. Kevin’s credentials include a master mariner’s license for steam and sailing vessels and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
Kevin’s research is motivated by the need to identify and understand longer timescale climate variation in the high latitudes. This issue is increasingly important as we try to anticipate the broader impacts of a warmer Arctic in the future. The lack of adequate baseline information and the technology to use it effectively has been a hindrance in the past, but this situation is changing. First, a large community of scientists and citizen volunteers around the world has come together to work on recovering a vast amount of environmental data that is known to exist but has not been integrated into any of the global data collections – and thus has been effectively out of reach – and second, new approaches to reanalysis (retrospective analysis) that require only sparse data inputs have remarkably increased the insight that can be squeezed from a few old weather observations.
Recently Kevin has been leading a joint venture with partners at the National Archives and Old Weather to identify and extract historical weather and sea ice information from ship logbooks dating from the mid-19th century. More than 1000 ship/years of record from the North Pacific – Arctic region have been found so far containing more than two million environmental observations that have never been accessible before. Once transcribed, quality-controlled, and integrated into large-scale data sets like the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) these data will support new research into past climate fluctuations in the region and their impact on the ecosystem.
Mentoring high school and undergraduate students is also an important part of Kevin’s work. Currently he is coordinating a student research project that is investigating the potential bias in air temperature measurements made at Point Barrow 1852–1854 by the officers of the HMS Plover, and working with a JISAO summer intern in a study of the former and curious appearance of multiyear Arctic sea ice in Bering Strait in the summer. An illustration of this now uncommon phenomenon was found in a report from September 1930: “…off East Cape vast ice fields were observed filling half of Bering Strait…”
When not at work searching for the lost Arctic, playing with his two young children or renovating (repairing) his family’s 1922 craftsman bungalow, Kevin enjoys sleeping and sitting in soft chairs.