Torn and others rush to understand why climate models underestimate Arctic warming
A group of scientists from the Atmospheric Measurement Research (ARM) Climate Research Facility won’t be looking for gold or oil this summer as they crisscross Alaska’s North Slope in an airplane. Instead, the ARM Airborne Carbon Measurements V (ARM-ACME V) team—led by Sebastien Biraud from U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—will run an aerial campaign from June 1 to September 15, measuring trace gas concentrations, aerosols, and cloud properties to find out why current climate models underestimate how rapidly the Arctic is getting warmer.
“Warming has two effects,” according to Margaret Torn, co-principal investigator for the ARM-ACME V campaign. “As arctic tundra thaws, organic matter decomposes, releasing carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases. At the same time, the warming trend has a greening effect on Alaska that you can see from space. The additional photosynthesis occurring as a result of this greening takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. We want to determine when one effect is more important than the other—and why.”