Climate

Current Research Highlights

The Juneau Icefield is a pristine location, but nevertheless it is subject to the deposition of black carbon (soot). JISAO researcher Sarah Doherty is working with personnel from the University of Alaska to determine how much of this material is being deposited and its effects. It turns out that very small amounts of black carbon can cause significant decreases in the reflectivity of the surface of the snow or ice, hence melt rates increase. A previous major study coauthored by Doherty quantified the global impact of black carbon on the climate. The surprising result is that black carbon appears to be the second most important anthropogenic cause of global warming. This recent work featuring data from a remote location should provide additional insights into this under-recognized, but very important constituent of the atmosphere.

Much of the skill in seasonal weather prediction relies on proper specification of the state of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the tropical Pacific. This has been accomplished in large part during the past couple of decades through the deployment of an array of moored buoys. New methods are becoming available to collect the observations necessary to adequately monitor air-sea exchanges in the tropics. In particular, NOAA and JISAO scientists are leading a new project to determine the feasibility of using autonomous sailing vessels developed by Saildrone, Inc. for this purpose. These small but rugged wind-powered craft are being outfitted with a full suite of sensors to estimate the winds and exchanges of heat and carbon dioxide. This technology promises to provide considerable cost savings that are so important in these times of shrinking budgets, and this project is carrying out the testing required before it becomes operational.

Types of Research

  1. Atmospheric research including Arctic circulation and climate variability
  2. Air-sea interaction
  3. Carbon cycle
  4. Aerosol
  5. Land-surface hydrology

Affiliated Programs

  1. NOAA/PMEL Carbon Program
  2. NOAA/PMEL Atmospheric Chemistry Group
  3. Office of the Washington State Climatologist

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