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Ignatius Rigor

Senior Principal Research Scientist

Affiliate Assistant Professor, Oceanography






Ignatius Rigor is the Coordinator of the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP). His primary interests are in the use of data from the buoys to study air, sea, and ice interaction. His recent work has focused on analyzing surface air temperature observations in the Arctic, studying sea ice processes in the Russian marginal seas, and backtracking the source areas of pollutants found in sea ice. He joined the professional staff in 1987 after having worked in the APL-UW Student Assistant Program as an undergraduate.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Biology, University of Washington - Seattle, 1986

M.S. Atmospheric Science, University of Washington - Seattle, 2001

Ph.D. Atmospheric Science, University of Washington - Seattle, 2005


International Arctic Buoy Programme

The participants of the IABP work together to maintain a network of drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean to provide meteorological and oceanographic data for real-time operational requirements and research purposes including support to the World Climate Research Programme and the World Weather Watch Programme.


Sea Ice Thickness Estimates Obtained from Satellites Using Submarines and Other In Situ Observations

We compare the observations of arctic sea ice thickness estimates from satellites with in situ observations %u2013 collected by submarine cruises and moorings under the sea ice, by direct measurement during field camps, by electromagnetic instruments flown over the sea ice, and by buoys drifting with the sea ice %u2013 to provide a careful assessment of our capabilities to monitor the thickness of sea ice.


Arctic Surface Air Temperatures for the Past 100 Years

Accurate fields of Arctic surface air temperature (SAT) are needed for climate studies, but a robust gridded data set of SAT of sufficient length is not available over the entire Arctic. We plan to produce authoritative SAT data sets covering the Arctic Ocean from 1901 to present, which will be used to better understand Arctic climate change.


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International Cooperative Engagement Program for Polar Research

An international team dropped buoys by parachute from a C-130 operated by the Danish Royal Air Force. These buoys are floating weather stations that measure fundamental meteorological properties. Satellite-linked data are used to forecast weather, track sea ice movement, and study climate change in the Arctic. The September 2017 buoy drops enhanced the 100-buoy arctic network by targeting sparsely sampled regions near the North Pole and the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean.

30 Oct 2017

Polar Science Weekend @ Pacific Science Center

This annual event at the Pacific Science Center shares polar science with thousands of visitors. APL-UW researchers inspire appreciation and interest in polar science through dozens of live demonstrations and hands-on activities.

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10 Mar 2017

Polar research and technology were presented to thousands of visitors by APL-UW staff during the Polar Science Weekend at Seattle's Pacific Science Center. The goal of is to inspire an appreciation and interest in science through one-on-one, face-to-face interactions between visitors and scientists. Guided by their 'polar passports', over 10,000 visitors learned about the Greenland ice sheet, the diving behavior of narwhals, the difference between sea ice and freshwater ice, how Seagliders work, and much more as they visited dozens of live demonstrations and activities.

The Polar Science Weekend has grown from an annual outreach event to an educational research project funded by NASA, and has become a model for similar activities hosted by the Pacific Science Center. A new program trains scientists and volunteers how to interact with the public and how to design engaging exhibits.

Snow Accumulations on Arctic Sea Ice

Snow plays a key role in the growth and decay of Arctic sea ice each year. APL-UW research assesses spring snow depth distribution on Arctic sea ice using airborne radar observations from Operation IceBridge compared with in situ measurements taken in spring 2012 and historical data from the Soviet drifting ice stations of the mid-20th century. Snow depths have declined in the western Arctic and Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Thinning is correlated with the delayed onset of sea ice freeze-up during autumn.

11 Sep 2014

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2000-present and while at APL-UW

Observing Arctic sea ice

Webster, M.A., I. Rigor, and N.C. Wright, "Observing Arctic sea ice," Oceanography, 35, 28-37, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2022.115, 2022.

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1 Dec 2022

Our understanding of Arctic sea ice and its wide-ranging influence is deeply rooted in observation. Advancing technologies have profoundly improved our ability to observe Arctic sea ice, document its processes and properties, and describe atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions with unprecedented detail. Yet, our progress toward better understanding the Arctic sea ice system is mired by the stark disparities between observations that tend to be siloed by method, scientific discipline, and application. This article presents a review and philosophical design for observing sea ice and accelerating our understanding of the Arctic sea ice system. We give a brief history of Arctic sea ice observations and showcase the 2018 melt season within the context of five observational themes: spatial heterogeneity, temporal variability, cross-disciplinary science, scalability, and retrieval uncertainty. We synthesize buoy data, optical imagery, satellite retrievals, and airborne measurements to demonstrate how disparate data sets can be woven together to transcend issues of observational scale. The results show that there are limitations to interpreting any single data set alone. However, many of these limitations can be surmounted by combining observations that cross spatial and temporal scales. We conclude the article with pathways toward enhanced coordination across observational platforms in order to: (1) optimize the scientific, operational, and community return on observational investments, and (2) facilitate a richer understanding of Arctic sea ice and its role in the climate system.

Marine renewable energy for Arctic observations

Branch, R., F.T. Rollano, E. Cotter, J.R. McVey, R.J. Cavagnaro, and I. Rigor, "Marine renewable energy for Arctic observations," Front. Mar. Sci., 9, doi:10.3389/fmars.2022.970337, 2022.

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21 Nov 2022

Arctic observations are becoming increasingly valuable as researchers investigate climate change and its associated concerns, such as decreasing sea ice and increasing ship traffic. Networks of sensors with frequent sampling capabilities are needed to run forecast models, improve navigation, and inform climate research. Sampling frequency and deployment duration are currently constrained by battery power limitations. In-situ power generation using marine renewable energy sources such as waves and currents can be used to circumvent this constraint. Wave and current resources vary spatially and temporally in the Arctic, with some locations and seasons being better suited for marine renewable energy power generation. Locations and seasons with small resources may still be able to use marine renewable energy because of the low power requirements of the instruments. In this study, we describe the wave and current resources in the Arctic, outline the electricity generation developments that are needed to utilize the resources, and suggest use cases. Wave and current energy converters developed to power observations in the Arctic could also be used to power observations at lower latitudes. Marine renewable energy has the potential to decrease dependence on batteries and improve data collection capabilities in the Arctic; however, this would require the development of new low power technologies that can operate in extreme Arctic environments.

Changes in Arctic Ocean circulation from in situ and remotely sensed observations: Synergies and sampling challenges

Morison, J., R. Kwok, and I. Rigor, "Changes in Arctic Ocean circulation from in situ and remotely sensed observations: Synergies and sampling challenges," Oceanography, 35, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2022.111, 2022.

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1 Jun 2022

Both in situ and remote sensing observations of Arctic Ocean hydrography and circulation have improved dramatically in recent decades, and combining the two can yield the most complete picture of Arctic Ocean change. Recent results derived from classical hydrography and satellite ocean altimetry illustrate this synergy and also reveal a fundamental in situ sampling challenge.

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In The News

Al Roker travels to the Arctic for a firsthand look at climate change

Today on NBC, Eun Kyung Kim

Al Roker travels to the farthest north town in the country to speak with scientists studying climate change. At a weather station on the sea ice, Ignatius Rigor tells Roker that the temperature changes observed in the Arctic are unprecedented because they have happened in only 30–50 years.

1 Apr 2019

Here's what vanishing sea ice in the Arctic means for you

The Verge, Alessandra Potenza

The mainstream news website, The Verge, interview Ignatius Rigor from APL-UW Polar Science Center and other researchers to detail the many ways the decreasing sea ice in the Arctic impacts the general public.

10 May 2018

Evidence mounts against so-called climate change hiatus

Live Science, Laura Geggel

Evidence is mounting against the so-called climate change hiatus — a period lasting from 1998 to 2012 — when global temperatures allegedly stopped rising as sharply as they had before. Data collected by scientists from the APL-UW Polar Science Center were used in the recent study.

22 Nov 2017

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