Arrived yesterday to Kangerlussuaq, west Greenland, now 6 AM, we’re just about out the door in effort to put more numbers on how fire and other factors are affecting Greenland’s reflectivity as part of the Dark Snow Project.
I just received this 27 July, 2014 NASA MODIS satellite image showing wildfire smoke drifting over Greenland ice.
Premier climate video blogger Peter Sinclair is a key component of the Dark Snow Project because of our focus on communicating our science to the global audience. The video below was shot and edited last night quickly as we prepare for a return to our camp a few hours from now.
The video does not comment on the important issue of carbon. So, here’s a quick research wrap-up… Wildfire is a source of carbon dioxide, methane and black carbon to the atmosphere. Jacobson (2014) find that sourcing to be underestimated in earlier work. Graven et al. (2013) find northern forests absorbing and releasing more carbon by respiration due to Arctic warming’s effects on forest composition change. At the global scale, the land environment produces a net sink of carbon, taking up some 10% of the atmospheric carbon emissions due to fossil fuel combustion (IPCC, 2007). Yet, whether northern wildfire is becoming an important source of atmospheric carbon (whether from CO2 or CH4 methane) remains under investigation. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers find:
“fires shift the carbon balance in multiple ways. Burning organic matter quickly releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. After a fire, loss of the forest canopy can allow more sun to reach and warm the ground, which may speed decomposition and carbon dioxide emission from the soil. If the soil warms enough to melt underlying permafrost, even more stored carbon may be unleashed.
“Historically, scientists believe the boreal forest has acted as a carbon sink, absorbing more atmospheric carbon dioxide than it releases, Gower says. Their model now suggests that, over recent decades, the forest has become a smaller sink and may actually be shifting toward becoming a carbon source.
“The soil is the major source, the plants are the major sink, and how those two interplay over the life of a stand really determines whether the boreal forest is a sink or a source of carbon
- Danish Meterological Institute provided the NASA MODIS satellite image
- Graven, H.D., R. F. Keeling, S. C. Piper, P. K. Patra, B. B. Stephens, S. C. Wofsy, L. R. Welp, C. Sweeney, P.P. Tans, J.J. Kelley, B.C. Daube, E.A. Kort, G.W. Santoni, J.D. Bent, 2013, Enhanced Seasonal Exchange of CO2 by Northern Ecosystems Since 1960, Science: Vol. 341 no. 6150 pp. 1085-1089, DOI: 10.1126/science.1239207
- Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
- Jacobson, M. Z., 2014, Effects of biomass burning on climate, accounting for heat and moisture fluxes, black and brown carbon, and cloud absorption effects, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 119, doi:10.1002/2014JD021861.
A large number of uncontrolled fires are burning across the Canadian NWT. The prevailing flow brings some of that smoke to darken Greenland ice.
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.
Phase 1 of our field program began 18 June with the camp installation and getting into a rhythm with ground and airborne measurements.
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.
After the usual uphill struggle that is field work, a most welcome feeling of satisfaction came after successful flights with the UAV copter.
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.
We’re still running our crowd funding campaign because we lack
- some travel funds
- funds to do some of the lab processing
- funding for advancing our drone objectives.
We ask you to join us and help our science happen with a US tax deductible pledge.