Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dark Snow Project - Research into soot on Greenland

Fossil fuel combustion creates carbon emissions that increase atmospheric thickness, warming climate. The occurrence of wildfire increases with climate warming, increasing soot loading of the atmosphere. Some of this soot is transported through the atmosphere and is deposited on glaciers, lowering their reflectivity, increasing solar energy absorption, increasing melt rates.
image from

In parts of Greenland where winter snow loss during each melt season exposes impurity-rich bare ice, the surface reflectivity drops from 85% to 30%. Consequently, most of the 24-hour sunlight goes into ice melt. In this Dark Zone, the impact of soot manifests strongest in a self-reinforcing feedback loop that research by Jason Box has shown to have doubled melt rates in the past decade.

High on the inland ice sheet where melting is rare, satellite data show surface darkening making the researchers suspect that wildfire and industrial soot are to blame. Darkening here promotes snowpack heating, bringing earlier melt, keeping melt going longer. Here is where this feedback is changing the ice sheet in surprising ways, leading to complete surface melting in year 2012.

To measure the extent to which soot particles enhance melting, Jason 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.


Fire and Ice: Wildfires Darkening Greenland Snowpack, Increasing Melting (News Release from Byrd Polar Center)

- The DarkSnowProject

-Video: Sampling Greenland, the Dark Snow Project, by Peter Sinclair, produced at Greenman Studio, Midland, MI.

- Where there’s fire there’s smoke - Blog by Jason Box, the

Further reading

- Greenland is melting at incredible rate


  1. The darkening of continental ice sheets and glaciers enhances melt rate but approx 40% more CO2 in Earth atmosphere as well may significantly contribute to increased rate of glacial collapse.
    Perhaps a hurry up add on of something to monitor CO2 level and ice strength at micro level on Greenland ice sheet can be deployed simultaneous for follow up research.
    It is one of the deniers' main tools to say who could have known; There are no studies -when in -When in truth thermodynamic Reality is Earth will soon be out of temperature range in which sunlight can be transformed to sugars.

  2. Doggone it Sam... there's nuthin' up there but facts and information. What are you doin' here, ruining a perfectly good political war with all that stuff for?

    Seriously folks, dark stuff on the snow & ice makes the snow & ice melt. Try an experiment. Put a leaf on snow and pin it there. It will sink into the snow it's lying on six inches or more in a day. It absorbs the heat from sunlight and transfers it to the snow. The snow around it reflects the sunlight and doesn't melt. Same with soot, fly ash, anything dark.

    And we're sending dark stuff all over the world, all day every day. We don't have enough trouble with the atmosphere warming up... we gotta add simple heat transfer physics to the problem. We outghta stop that stuff.

  3. There are app. 50,000 airplane flights over the arctic every year... that's a lot of soot!