James Overland

2014 Ambassador Award Winner

James E. Overland was awarded the 2014 Ambassador Awards at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 17 December 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


It is my great pleasure and honor to give the citation for the 2014 AGU Ambassador awardee Dr. James E. Overland. Jim’s contributions to raising public awareness and fostering collaborative, interdisciplinary research on Arctic change and ecosystem responses are tremendous.

Jim’s tireless work includes publishing more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, book chapters, and reports; giving presentations at scientific meetings and local community gatherings; convening meeting sessions; organizing workshops; and forming working groups to address important issues related to Arctic climate change and its impact on fisheries and components of ecosystems. He communicates the significance of scientific findings to policy makers, fisheries managers, environmental agencies, biologists, and the public. Jim is a leading force to push Arctic research to the forefront. He shows great foresight in Arctic research and supports young scientists by serving as a Ph.D. committee member around the world.

Jim has brought communities of scientists from different disciplines together to work as a cohesive unit. Because changes in the Arctic environment are multivariate and data sources are scattered, Jim envisioned a single interdisciplinary portal of information to contain key indicators of the Arctic environmental system. His goal was to make the information easily accessible to scientists, teachers, students, decision makers, and the general public. Jim founded the State of the Arctic Report in 2006, which later became the Arctic Report Card, a yearly assessment of the Arctic’s physical, chemical, and biological systems and how they are changing. He continues to serves as an editor of the Arctic Report Card, which in 2013 featured 18 essays authored by a team of 147 researchers from 14 countries.

In 2008, Jim organized scientists to create a Web-based forum/summary called the Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) with the purpose of providing the scientific community, stakeholders, and the public the best available information on the evolution of Arctic sea ice. In 2013, 23 groups of experts provided their predictions on the basis of model and/or empirical analyses.

Because of his profound knowledge of Arctic climate change and his insight into studies of climate -change–related issues, Jim was chosen to represent the United States as a lead author of chapter 10 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. Jim has responded to requests to provide climate projections for evaluating endangered species and has contributed to U.S. and international Arctic change assessments.

Jim is a true ambassador in the Arctic research community.

—Muyin Wang, University of Washington, Seattle


I am honored to be considered for the AGU Ambassador Award as a larger recognition of how the Arctic science community has cooperated and communicated the importance of ongoing rapid changes in the Arctic over the last decades. For me, it starts with the professional values promoted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration leaders to provide credible scientific information backed by peer review publications. It has included working with other editors on the Arctic Report Card, a yearly update of multiple changes that now includes more than 100 contributors, and Sea Ice Outlook, a website to discuss the causes of rapid summer sea ice loss that has matured to a larger activity in the last 2 years. A challenge was working with biological scientist colleagues on Endangered Species Act listings for polar bears and various ice seals; here one compared climate change projections with potential impacts based on different life histories. With Arctic temperatures rising 2–3 times faster than the global value and many Arctic “surprises,” it has been necessary for the community to come together during symposia and workshops to understand the mechanisms for this “Arctic amplification” as an indicator of global change and local impacts. Such efforts are seen by the many -Arctic-​-related sessions at the current AGU meeting. International support for integration activities is through the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), and various World Meteorological Organization activities. Achieving synthesis and consensus is not always easy or possible, as with any rapidly evolving science activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report dealt with differences between data and models on future timing of sea ice loss, and the community is currently debating the extent of larger hemispheric impacts of Arctic change. I appreciate the many colleagues whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate with over the years.

—James E. Overland, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Wash.