Source: ORAU | Release | January 15, 2021

The National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs has awarded ORAU a collaborative research grant to study local and regional methane and carbon dioxide isotopic fluxes in the Arctic.

As northern latitudes continue to warm, carbon stored in permafrost is increasingly vulnerable to thaw and decomposition by microbes. This decomposition has the potential to lead to large increases in methane and carbon dioxide emissions, both important greenhouse gases. Accurate and reliable forecasts of greenhouse gas emissions are critical for the improvement of global models that predict changes to temperature and sea level.

Data and modeling products can be used to better inform local populations of the changes happening to their environment and help predict likely future changes. Model improvements require advancement in the current knowledge of methane and carbon dioxide flux sources to gain insight into how the net flux is expected to respond to a warming Arctic. Comparing aircraft derived fluxes to local tower measurements and land classification maps allows for the determination of which mechanisms are primarily responsible for the variation in emissions.

This research provides emission measurements of carbon dioxide and methane plus nitrous oxide and water vapor from the North Slope of Alaska on a small aircraft operating at altitudes from 10 meters to 10 kilometers with custom-built spectroscopic sensors, an air turbulence probe, and GPS systems. This project bridges the scale gap between local studies of carbon emissions in the Arctic, such as those from flux towers, and large regional scale emissions estimates from inversion modeling. Inverse modeling is a statistical approach used to trace atmospheric measurements of the magnitude and patterns of fluxes at the earth’s surface.

Praveena Krishnan, Ph.D., serves as the principal investigator. Krishnan is an atmospheric scientist specialized in atmospheric boundary layer dynamics. She currently works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Laboratory’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (NOAA/ARL/ATDD) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. ORAU manages staff at the facility.

About ORAU

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).