Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

InteRFACE: Interdisciplinary Research for Arctic Coastal Environments


Sentinel 2 satellite image acquired on June 6, 2018 of the north slope of Alaska. The
white box highlights the Prudhoe Bay region on the banks of the Sagavanirktok River. 

Integrating leading expertise and data resources across the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) complex, a new research project—the Interdisciplinary Research for Arctic Coastal Environments (InteRFACE)—is designed to improve fundamental understanding of change in arctic coastal systems.

The project spans DOE’s modeling (Regional and Global Model Analysis, Earth System Model Development, and Multisector Dynamics) and Data Management programs. InteRFACE is a partnership between Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and researchers at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Through inter-agency collaborations and workshops, InteRFACE will help integrate ongoing and proposed research investments in arctic marine biogeochemistry, shipping, and coastal change.

Addressing Science Questions

InteRFACE seeks to address the following overarching science questions:

  • How will reductions in sea ice thickness and extent alter maritime shipping, resource extraction, and communities along the northern Alaskan coast and across the Arctic, and how will these changes affect local, regional, and global communities and economies?
  • How will riverine fluxes change, and how will these changes alter feedbacks between sea ice, ocean circulation, and marine biogeochemistry that may affect the sustainability and economies of coastal communities in northern Alaska?
  • How will the vulnerability of the northern Alaska coast to erosion and flooding influence the economics of maintaining, relocating, and expanding coastal communities and infrastructure associated with resource
  • utilization under regional and global economic drivers?


E3SM Arctic regional mesh refinement similar to InteRFACE’s planned grid:
a) Horizontal resolution of the E3SM unstructured grid (shaded), with a transition
from 30km in mid-latitudes to 10km in the Arctic Ocean. Frame (b) is an enlarged
area of the orange-circled region in the center of frame (a) surrounding
Nuvuk, Alaska, indicating the E3SM coastline topology. The green lines highlight
an ICESat-2 overflight path and the redline shows an approximate shipping route.

Supporting E3SM

Over the next three years, researchers plan to implement several key developments for the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM). These will be tested and benchmarked on a regionally refined oceanic mesh designed to inform navigability for Arctic shipping, and better represent coastal biogeochemistry and river outflow.

InteRFACE researchers will also introduce to E3SM landfast sea ice, wave-sea ice coupling, higher-order-closure-type oceanic mixing, benthic biogeochemistry, and a nested permafrost hydrology model.

Multi-scale modeling and analysis will focus on understanding the drivers and patterns of coastal change and how potential change may interact with settlements and economic development in northern Alaska. Model development, analysis, and testing will be backed by a simulation campaign focused on quantifying the spread of moderately-sized ensembles, presenting the potential of significant improvements to the polar physics and biogeochemistry of E3SM. 

Project Term: 
2019 to 2021
Project Type: 
Laboratory Project