NOAA scientists are now flying through springtime Arctic pollution to find out why the region is warming - and summertime sea ice is melting - faster than predicted. Some 35 NOAA researchers are gathering with government and university colleagues in Fairbanks, Alaska, to conduct the study through April 23.
The Arctic is changing before our eyes, said A.R. Ravishankara, director of the chemistry division at NOAAs Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. Capturing in detail the processes behind this large and surprisingly rapid transformation is a unique opportunity for understanding climate changes occurring elsewhere.
Observations from instruments on the ground, balloons, and satellites show the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe. Summer sea-ice extent has decreased by nearly 40 percent compared to the 19792000 average, and the ice is thinning.
Industry, transportation, and biomass burning in North America, Europe, and Asia are emitting trace gases and tiny airborne particles that are polluting the polar region, forming an Arctic Haze every winter and spring. Scientists suspect these pollutants are speeding up the polar melt.
Called ARCPAC (Aerosol, Radiation, and Cloud Processes affecting Arctic Climate Change), the project is a NOAA contribution to International Polar Year 2008. The experiment will be coordinated with the agencys long-term climate monitoring station at Barrow, Alaska, and with simultaneous projects conducted by NASA and the Department of Energy.
This is our first airborne deployment of a powerful new suite of instruments in the Arctic, said ARCPAC lead scientist Dan Murphy, also of NOAAs Earth System Research Laboratory. When we analyze all the data, well be able to piece together the equivalent of a high-def movie of the atmosphere as springtime sunlight warms the region and sparks a chain of chemical reactions.
Scientists aboard the NOAA WP-3D research air