Mark Johnson

“After contacting the Editor-in-Chief, we knew this was a solid journal and the right place to publish our findings.”

Mark Johnson, co-author of the Elementa article, Estimating Arctic sea-ice freeze-up and break-up from the satellite record: A comparison of different approaches in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, tells us more about his research on sea ice variability, and gives us his perspectives on publishing.

How did you come to focus your research on sea-ice variability over time?

As a physical oceanographer having done work in Antarctica and the Arctic, I observed first hand that ice plays an important role in the ocean’s behavior. I became interested in the sea ice thickness problem and ways to measure thickness. While I was in Barrow, Alaska, I became acquainted with my co-author Hajo Eicken who was conducting airborne surveys of ice thickness. That led to several successful NSF proposals and more work on sea ice. My past ocean research looked at decadal variation in wind-driven Arctic Ocean currents, and it seemed natural to start looking at long term sea ice trends and their relevance to ocean circulation.


Please tell us about your recent research with the NSF funded projects, the Arctic Ocean Model Intercomparison, and Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network.

AOMIP and now FAMOS seeks to improve numerical models. With the algorithm we describe in our paper we can now determine dates of freeze-up and break-up from models and then see how well they time the annual sea ice cycle compared to the satellite record. It was the SIZONET project that helped acquire the observations to validate the algorithm and allow me to work with and learn from sea ice experts.


How do you think research on sea ice is helpful to a broader understanding of climate change and its effects?

Changes in sea ice are a key indicator of climate change. The timing of the sea ice cycle is a critical element in understanding that cycle and how it may be changing in time.

You have recently co-authored an article in Elementa: ‘Estimating Arctic sea-ice freeze-up and break-up from the satellite record: A comparison of different approaches in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas’. What does your article examine? How rare is it to include local observers of sea ice patterns in such analyses?

The article uses observations from sea ice experts in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas who have been keeping records of sea-ice, ocean, and weather conditions as part of SIZONET. Those observations guided development of the algorithm described in the paper to calculate sea-ice seasonality. We are not aware of similar studies where ground-based observations are used to validate remote-sensing derived observations of freeze-up and break-up. Our approach provides a measure of sea-ice seasonality that is relevant to on-ice users, researchers, and industry.


What attracted you to contribute to the Ocean Science domain of Elementa?

A long-time colleague, Patricia Yager, who I met while doing work in the Northeast Water polynya years ago was visiting after a research cruise. She had recently published in Elementa and highly recommended it. The manuscript I was working on with Hajo Eicken seemed well suited for Elementa. After contacting the Editor we knew this was a solid journal and the right place to publish our findings.

The reviewers comments made for a significantly better paper. It was great working with Elementa to get the figures and the text to their best form. Elementa paid attention to detail that helped improve the final product, and they responded well to my perhaps fussy suggestions even as the edits neared final form. It was a very positive experience.


What would you like to see more of in scholarly publishing?

Elementa is a good example of where journals are heading. Publications with ready access to the science community and the public. Production of a clean, good-looking paper. The ability to share via Facebook, Twitter, etc. is ideal and important in our electronic age.