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Dark matter for Greenland melting

Posted on 7 January 2013 by Jason Box

We're now launching the first-of-a-kind Arctic expedition relying totally on internet crowd funding.

A video overview of our mission, the Dark Snow Project appears 7 Jan here. The youtube video is here.

The Dark Snow narrative

In waiting area of New York’s Laguardia airport last June, an hour before leaving on month long Greenland expedition, my 23rd, I beheld crowds captivated by TV news of unprecedented Colorado wildfires.

Since I had been researching changes in the albedo, or reflectivity, of the Greenland ice sheet, I was reminded that wildfire, increasing with climate change [123], would be depositing more light-absorbing black carbon [soot] on the cryosphere [snow and ice], multiplying the existing heat-driven ice-reflectivity [albedo] feedback.

A tundrafire rages in northern Alaska in 2011.

While my recently published work had linked Greenland’s reflectivity decline with climate warming through a heat-driven melt process (heat drives ice crystal rounding that reduces its reflectivity), what remained unresolved was the relative importance changing soot concentrations. Soot contains black carbon that acts as a multiplier in the existing heat-driven feedback process.

From Laguardia, I rang fellow Colorado native and NASA JPL snow optics expert Dr. Tom Painter to ask if snow samples delivered to his laboratory could be used to identify wildfire soot? His answer, “Yes.”

I said, “Tom, with snow samples, is it possible to discriminate wildfire soot with that from industrial sources?” ... “Yes”. Before the flight boarded we had resolved the goal of sampling Greenland’s ice and snow for soot and other light absorbing impurities. We only had to somehow muster resources to get up to the ice sheet’s highest elevations where the satellite data showed a conspicuous pre-melt reflectivity decline...

7.5% reflectivity decline in July for the upper elevations ice sheet, corresponding with 50 exajoules more solar energy absorption by the ice sheet for this month between 2000 and 2012. For the June-August [summer] period, the ice sheet is now absorbing and additional 1.5 times the total US annual energy consumption[1]. Part of the reflectivity decline is due to the effect of heat, rounding ice crystals, reducing light scattering. Another component of the decline is soot. But we don't know if the effective importance of soot is 1%, 10%, 50%?

We thus began a first-of-a-kind crowdfunding experiment: can we raise funds to return to Greenland to sample its snow to measure the radiative impact of the 2012 fire season?

Because we can't precisely measure fire's increasing role in cryospheric change unless we reach our funding goal, please consider:

  • giving in one of the following ways:
    1. via PayPal at http://darksnowproject.org/ a US tax deductible donation;
    2. a (US tax deductible) check mailed to Earth Insight Foundation Inc., PO Box 699, San Jose, CA 95106
    3. mailing a check to Dark Snow attn. Michele Cook, Byrd Polar Research Center, Scott Hall Rm. 108, 1090 Carmack Rd., Columbus, OH, 43210.
  • distributing this message in a call for support to those you expect would support Dark Snow Project

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Comments

Comments 1 to 14:

  1. Soot is produced from both wildfires and human activities. However, in warming periods in the distant past there would also have been an increase in wildfire and the fires could spread over much larger areas, producing more soot.
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  2. The NSIDC site has this paragraph up at present.

    November air temperatures at the 925 hPa level (approximately 3,000 feet) were above average over most of the Arctic Ocean. Notably, temperatures in the Barents and Kara seas were up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average. This reflects in part the lingering open water in the regions, allowing strong upward transfers of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere. Unusually strong winds from the south contributed to the warmth and also helped keep the region ice free.

    This looks very much like the first indication of a reversal of the flow of the Polar Hadley cell. If quite a bit of soot reaches Northern Hemisphere ice at present, imagine a year in the future when the Arctic ocean is ice free in, say, July and some serious heat is absorbed by the Arctic ocean. If this little bit of open water is sucking air from the south, what will a whole, warm Arctic ocean do.
    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2008/07/arctic-melting-no-problem.html
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  3. $55K+ raised already!
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  4. So, Jason, is the idea here that soot caused darkening of the ice is a previously understood, and an unaccounted for, positive feedback? Is that an accurate way to phrase what you're looking to research?
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  5. Pete @1

    "However, in warming periods in the distant past there would also have been an increase in wildfire and the fires could spread over much larger areas..."

    What do you consider the distant past?
    Why would there have been an increase in wildfires? Why would these fires spread over a larger area?
    What is the empirical basis for this claim?

    This sounds all rather "IMO"...IMHO.
    -------------
    They are attempting to raise 150k for a research project that will involve, among other cost, chartering a plane for the duration of their stay. I have already seen postings to the YT thread talking about the "green gravy train" which deskepticons use as a form of ad hom argument to discount the science...a get rich quick fraud perpetrated so as to fatten the wallets of the research by fleecing the unknowing public coffers; well, at least that is what the are trying to spin this as.
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  6. I've also seen claims that this merely replicates work already done by Shindell, hence a junket. I don't know that Shindell has that kind of data...does anyone? My quick look at his work doesn't suggest he does, but I've not been reading all the full papers.
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  7. I wish the "crowdfunding" word would die, because it obscures what's really novel about approaches like Kickstarter - and this project misses it.

    Rather, it should be called "treshold pledge funding". The crucial fact of Kickstarter, which distinguishes it from fundraisers of the sort every charity has prior art on, is that pledges are taken, not money, and pledges are only upheld if the campaign reaches the goal.

    But people who want money don't like to think about failure. They tend to just want money now, and don't put the contributors interest first as they should. This project is an example: It is not a treshold pledge system! They take the money whether they raise enough to do the expedition or not. There is no good reason for them to do that.

    I don't care about charitable deductions (I don't get them anyway). A scientific expedition isn't charity. We should fund this because we get something out of it, because it matters to us. Charity is the wrong way to think about that, even if it pays tax-wise.

    If the meaningless neologism "crowdfunding", which just is a synonym of fundraising, would die and be replaced by "treshold pledge funding", then maybe these people would do things right next time.
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  8. this is SCARRY!
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  9. Yubedude @ 5,

    Fires tend to start in seasons that are not winter, and both start and spread more readily in warmer conditions. In a warming period (coming into an interglacial period for instance the Eemian) the number of fire-prone days per year increases in many regions. I'm sure we agree that roads, fields and whole towns, as well as active fire fighters, limit the spread of fire. On the other hand, if it gets much warmer fire becomes nearly unstoppable.

    Another local resident said that “the trees just exploded” as he tried to help fire crews in the township of Murdunna, which was mostly destroyed by the blaze.
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  10. Harald... Problem there is, language just doesn't work in such logical terms. Language has a life of it's own that you just can't control. The term "crowdfunding," regardless of its accuracy, has entered the lexicon and, at this point, there's not much chance in changing it.

    In fact, if you want to establish a new way of doing business, probably the best thing you can do is create a new word for what you do and see if you can get it to stick. It doesn't matter how perfectly accurate the word is, it just needs to be sticky. Crowdfunding is a very sticky word.
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  11. Pete @ 9

    "I'm sure we agree that roads, fields and whole towns, as well as active fire fighters, limit the spread of fire."

    It is true that the fire break aspect of development can and often does impact the general spread of a fire but that same development also houses and provides access for the number one contemporaneous cause of wild-fries and fires in general, humans.
    Cast off cigarettes, smoldering camp-fires, pyromania, heavy machinery, fireworks, land clearing with slash and burn, children playing with matches, transmission line arc, field burning to prepare for the next planting and other human endeavors play a significant role in the story of fire; a role that has no parallel component in the Eemain.

    Not offering support for your original assertion that claimed "...there would also have been an increase in wildfire..." leads me to infer that you are attempting to attribute a degree of natural variability but one that has no empirical evidence; begging the question, why, and to what end?

    "...the number of fire-prone days per year increases..." with warmer temps as you stated but without the spark it is just another warm day. The wildfires of NSW and Victoria over the last decade, what natural condition would have created these conflagrations in the Eemain and what evidence do you have in support?
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  12. YubeDude, it may be that combustion chemistry and fire dynamics were different in the past. Perhaps previous warmings did not lead to more fire-days per year. What your views on this, you are welcome to them.
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  13. Pete @ 12

    "...it may be that combustion chemistry and fire dynamics were different in the past."

    It may be? Based on what observation, empirical metric or is there any evidence whatsoever to make such a suggestion?

    Your op implied (as I inferred) that fires could easily have been more prevalent in the past. I challenged this assertion based purely on statistical evidence that shows a majority of fires are the result of human endeavors and as man wasn't doing much in the time frame you mentioned (which is why I asked you to define "distant past) the likelihood of fires having a greater input then vs now lacks credible evidence to support your initial assertion; as I see it.
    Granted I did infer as to what you were asserting and if I have missed the mark then I stand in error.
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  14. I just supported the above mentioned http://darksnowproject.org
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