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Canadian fires and the Dark Snow effort

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An aerial view of the Birch Creek Fire complex, which seared 250,000 acres as of Wednesday. Credit: NWTFire/Facebook/ClimateCentral.org

A large number of uncontrolled fires are burning across the Canadian NWT. The prevailing flow brings some of that smoke to darken Greenland ice.

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Example of one day last week of fires detected from NASA satellite thermal imagery. Analysis by Jason Box as part of the Dark Snow project

via Brian Kahn of Climate Central

“The amount of acres burned in the Northwest Territories is six times greater than the 25-year average to-date according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.

Boreal forests like those in the Northwest Territories are burning at rates “unprecedented” in the past 10,000 years according to the authors of a study put out last year. The northern reaches of the globe are warming at twice the rate as areas closer to the equator, and those hotter conditions are contributing to more widespread burns.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark climate report released earlier this year indicates that for every 1.8°F rise in temperatures, wildfire activity is expected to double.

We have a team on Greenland ice right now, and until mid August, tasked with measuring the impact of dark particles on ice melt. We are asking for support to increase our abilities to detect smoke landing on Greenland ice. The support will help us afford expanding our laboratory work.

 

first data makes it off Camp Dark Snow

Phase 1 of our field  program began 18 June with the camp installation and getting into a rhythm with ground and airborne measurements.

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drone view of cook and science tents

A re-supply flight rotated in fresh people and food while Jason and Marek rotated out until their 1 August return for the final weeks of our the 2 month field science campaign.

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from left to right: Nathan Chrismas, Marek Stibal, Karen Cameron, Martyn Law, Alia Khan, Oysten Bornholm (pilot), Jason Box, and Filippo Qaglia

After the usual uphill struggle that is field work, a most welcome feeling of satisfaction came after successful flights with the UAV copter.

launching copter with down looking video calibrated using the white reference target

Jason Box launching UAV copter with down looking video calibrated using the white reference target lower right.

Ice biologists were busy gathering cell counts and I can tell you, the results are telling us we’re not wasting out time out on the ice.

Dr Marek Stibal gathers ice algae samples.

Dr Marek Stibal gathers ice algae samples.

Dr Karen Cameron measures spectral reflectance of ice all around our camp.

Dr Karen Cameron measures spectral reflectance of ice all around our camp.

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Dr. Jason Box measures reflectivity of ice algae and other snow and ice impurities.

We’re still running our crowd funding campaign because we lack

  1. some travel funds
  2. funds to do some of the lab processing
  3. funding for advancing our drone objectives.

We ask you to join us and help our science happen with a US tax deductible pledge.

2014 Greenland ice sheet reflectivity near record low

The NASA MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite provides surface reflectivity data since early 2000 enabling us to evaluate just how dark Greenland ice is today and in comparison with the past 14 years.

The data show that 2014 ice sheet reflectivity (also called albedo) has been near record low much of 2014, especially at the highest elevations.

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15 years of albedo data for the uppermost region of the ice sheet

The darkness of the surface at high elevations is consistent with the findings of Dumont et al. (2014) that an increasing dust concentration on the ice sheet in the pre-melt season from decreasing snow cover on land upwind of the ice sheet may be a significant darkening factor.

If there will be a persistent pattern of warm air brought over the ice sheet as in 2012, we should expect melting at the ice sheet upper elevations. Why? Low reflectivity heats the snow more than normal, removing more of the ‘cold content’. A dark snow cover will thus melt earlier and more intensely. A positive feedback exists for snow in which once melting begins, the surface gets yet darker due to increased liquid water content, increased snow grain size, and possible other factors such as microbial growth.

For the ice sheet as a whole, low reflectivity in 2014 has been exceeded only by years 2012, 2013, and 2011, depending on the time of year…

0-3200m_Greenland_Ice_Sheet_Reflectivity

15 years of albedo data for the entire ice sheet and peripheral glaciers

The Greenland reflectivity anomaly map features red and orange colors that indicate a relatively dark surface near the end of June especially at the low elevations where most melting occurs.

albedo anomaly map

albedo anomaly map. For more, see http://polarportal.dk/en/groenlands-indlandsis/nbsp/isens-overflade/

Work Cited

  1. Dumont, M., E. Brun, G. Picard, M. Michou, Q. Libois, J-R. Petit, M. Geyer, S. Morin and B. Josse, Contribution of light-absorbing impurities in snow to Greenland’s darkening since 2009, Nature Geoscience, 8 June, 2014, DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2180

take off today for camping on ice 2 months

Today, we plan a 1315h take off from Kangerlussuaq (SFJ), west Greenland to our science camp that should run 2 months.

We have moved our target camp location 6 nm closer to SFJ to a place called S6; -49.3989154, 67.0784848, or in decimal minutes 49° 23.935’W, 67° 4.709’N, 1011 m above sea level.

S6 is 38 nautical miles from SFJ or ~21 minunute one-way fly time at 110 kt.

Reasons for the move:

  • We have judged that S6 us better for our science to start at snowline that is today just at or below S6. Snow line had been moving fast up glacier in the past 5 days but with snow last night and clouds and more snow in the forecast, we believe our science is best to start in these conditions.
  • According to the pilot, above S6 may not be land-able by the S61 that lands not on skids but relatively small wheels.
  • budget projection motivate us to work closer to the airport, with each flight saving 12 nautical miles. The relatively expensive S61 helicopter is the only reliable option for us in SFJ.
  • S6 has a long climate record, beginning in the 1990s.
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Sikorsky S61 helicopter is fully loaded for our camp put in

While on camp, we may be reached by email using darksnow@onsatmail.com with a maximum 250 kb message size filter that will block your message.

For phone communications, ring us at Iridium:
primary +88 162 143 3943
secondary +88 162 143 3944

Have an ice day!

The Dark Snow science team