Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fire and ice: Wildfires darkening Greenland snowpack, increasing melting

Date:
December 5, 2012
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
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.

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

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.

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 (http://www.darksnowproject.org) 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. The original article was written by Pam Frost Gorder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Fire and ice: Wildfires darkening Greenland snowpack, increasing melting." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112822.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2012, December 5). Fire and ice: Wildfires darkening Greenland snowpack, increasing melting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112822.htm
Ohio State University. "Fire and ice: Wildfires darkening Greenland snowpack, increasing melting." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205112822.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) At least six Nepalese guides are dead after an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest along a route used to climb the world's highest peak. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins