Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fire and Ice: Wildfires Darkening Greenland Snowpack, Increasing Melting

06.12.2012
Satellite observations have revealed the first direct evidence of smoke from Arctic wildfires drifting over the Greenland ice sheet, tarnishing the ice with soot and making it more likely to melt under the sun.

At the American Geophysical Union meeting this week, an Ohio State University researcher presented images from NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, which captured smoke from Arctic fires billowing out over Greenland during the summer of 2012.


NASA CALIPSO satellite scan over Greenland. The circled region (right) is among those researchers have identified as sooty aerosols from wildfires. Image by Jason Box, courtesy of Ohio State University.

Jason Box, associate professor of geography at Ohio State, said that researchers have long been concerned with how the Greenland landscape is losing its sparkly reflective quality as temperatures rise. The surface is darkening as ice melts away, and, since dark surfaces are less reflective than light ones, the surface captures more heat, which leads to stronger and more prolonged melting.

Researchers previously recorded a 6 percent drop in reflectivity in Greenland over the last decade, which Box calculates will cause enough warming to bring the entire surface of the ice sheet to melting each summer, as it did in 2012.

But along with the melting, researchers believe that there is a second environmental effect that is darkening polar ice: soot from wildfires, which may be becoming more common in the Arctic.

“Soot is an extremely powerful light absorber,” Box said. “It settles over the ice and captures the sun’s heat. That’s why increasing tundra wildfires have the potential to accelerate the melting in Greenland.”

Box was inspired to investigate tundra fires after his home state of Colorado suffered devastating wildfires this past year. According to officials, those fires were driven in part by high temperatures.

Meanwhile, in the Arctic, rising temperatures may be causing tundra wildfires to become more common. To find evidence of soot deposition from these fires, Box and his team first used thermal images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to identify large fires in the region. Then they used computer models to project possible smoke particle trajectories, which suggested that the smoke from various fires could indeed reach Greenland.

Finally, they used that information to examine the CALIPSO data, and pinpoint sooty aerosols—smoke clouds—over Greenland.

Because the only way to truly measure the extent to which soot particles enhance melting is to take ice sheet surface samples, Box is organizing a Greenland ice sheet expedition for 2013. The Dark Snow Project expedition is to be the first of its kind, made possible by crowd-source funding.

The analysis of the MODIS and CALIPSO data was supported by the Ohio State University’s Climate, Water and Carbon initiative. Collaborators on the fire study include Thomas Painter of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and graduate student McKenzie Skiles of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Contact: Jason Box, (614) 506-0830; Box.11@osu.edu

Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Editor’s note: to contact Box during the American Geophysical Union meeting, or to obtain a copy of a CALIPSO image showing smoke over Greenland, contact Pam Frost Gorder.

Presentation C51E-03, “Greenland ice sheet albedo feedback: mass balance implications,” will take place at 8:30 a.m. PT on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, in Rm. 3007 Moscone West.

Pam Frost Gorder | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New research unlocks forests' potential in climate change mitigation
21.04.2017 | Clemson University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>