AON: Atmospheric Tracers for Arctic Wildfires, Air Pollution, Atmospheric Chemistry, and Climate Change at GEOSummit, Greenland

PI Institute/Department Email
Helmig, Detlev
U of Colorado, Boulder, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research
IPY Project?
Funding Agency
Program Manager Funding Agency Email
Mercer, Dr. Jennifer
NSF, Office of Polar Programs
Meteorology and Climate
Science Summary

Climate warming in the Arctic has been occurring at a 2-3 higher rate than in any other environment on Earth. There has been an increase in tundra wildfire occurrences in coastal Greenland in recent years, setting a new all-time record in summer 2017. A growing body of literature suggests that this increase in arctic wildfires is largely due to drier summer conditions from increasing temperatures, increasing length of the snow-cover free season, and increased lightning, all of which are linked to the arctic warming. This project focuses on the study of emissions from arctic tundra wildfires. Chemical tracers of wildfires, including carbon monoxide, methane, and a series of volatile organic compounds will be monitored in the atmosphere at the Greenland Environmental Observatory at Summit (GEOSummit), which, while considered one of the most pristine and remote locations in the Northern Hemisphere, has previously been shown to receive fire plumes from coastal Greenland and other arctic regions further away. Observations will be applied in modeling research to assess the impacts of the increasing frequency and geographical extent of fires on the arctic environment and lower latitudes. This project will deliver continuous high time resolution data for wildfire emission and climate forcing atmospheric constituents at GEOSummit. All data will be submitted to the Arctic Data Center for worldwide dissemination. Data analyses and modeling will improve assessments of fire emissions and their environmental and climate impacts. Results and interpretations will be presented in university class room teaching, seminars, at conferences, and in peer-reviewed journal publications. Observations will make a pivotal contribution to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) program. This research will also contribute to the following programs: Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), Cryosphere and Atmospheric Chemistry (CATCH), Pollution in the Arctic: Climate, Environment and Societies (PACES), and the international Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP). It addresses the need for ‘long-term atmospheric measurements’, as stipulated in the Report on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research to NSF.

Logistics Summary

This award continues work begun under NSF grant 1108391 (PI Helmig, 2012-2017). An agreement with NASA (NASA-ESD in this database) allowed the measurements at Summit Station, Greenland to continue uninterrupted through the end of September 2018. Beginning in October 2018 the support for the project has been provided by the current grant; this continues through the summer of 2023. Specifically, the new award focuses on the study of Arctic tundra wildfires through continuous observations of atmospheric fire tracers, including methane, the volatile organic compounds and of carbon monoxide (CO) at Summit. Previous monitoring with a remotely controlled gas chromatography monitoring (GC) system will be resumed for five more years and a new Picarro methane, CO, CO2, and water vapor analyzer will be operated in parallel for evaluating its potential use in long term monitoring at polar research sites. The project will annually send three project personnel to Summit to perform routine maintenance and upgrades for in 2019-2021 and two project personnel in 2022-2023. In 2019, the Picarro analyzer and a second gas chromatograph will be installed at TAWO. In the last year of the project (2023), one person will deploy to decommission the instruments.

In 2018, CPS will provide ongoing science tech support, space in the TAWO building for the gas analyzers, power to the instruments, and cylinder rentals. In 2019-2022, CPS will provide Air National Guard (ANG) coordination for Greenland flights (passengers and cargo), KISS lodging, Summit user days, Science Tech support (about one hour a week), space in TAWO, power to instruments, extension of the mast (pending approval in 2019), network connection for two computers and provision of compressed hydrogen. All other logistics will be arranged and paid for by the PI.

Season Field Site Date In Date Out #People
Greenland - Summit
Greenland - Summit
Greenland - Summit
Greenland - Summit
Greenland - Summit