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Research Project: VAUUAV

created by John F Burkhart last modified 2009-09-25 18:41
  Variability of Arctic Albedo Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Abstract: An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle campaign to measure variability of Arctic albedo over glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets. Measurements will be made 'operationally' on a weekly basis during the spring and early summer. Furthermore, during intensive pollutant transport episodes, flight frequency will be increased to assess whether there is a detectable change in the albedo.

UAV, aerial vehicle, albedo, artic, pollutant, climate

  Research Project Information
Runtime: Since 2008-06-01
Contact: John F Burkhart
Project coordination: John F Burkhart
Scientific coordination: John F Burkhart; Sebastian Gerland; Jack Kohler
Technical staff: Andreas Tollefsen; Stian Solbo; Troy Ivan

A particularly important process in the Arctic surface energy budget is the snow/ice albedo feedback which contributes considerably to polaramplification of global warming. Several recent studies of pollutant transport, in particular black carbon, to the Arctic indicate that the deposition of black carbon on snow/ice surfaces may have a significant effect on the energy balance. Currently, there are insufficient measurements to evaluate black carbon induced changes on albedo in a quantitative manner and satellite measurements lack the required precision to monitor this effect. This is a fundamental parameter for climate modelling and requires attention. Thus we propose an innovative solution relying upon state-of-the-art technology to acquire an improved assessment of Arctic albedo variability as well as pollutant induced changes of albedo.

Our measurement platform relies principally on the ‘operational’ deployment of a proven Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Norway has a strong capacity in the operation of UAVs, yet, to date this expertise has not been fully utilized. The UAV platform will measure albedo over a wide range of Arctic terrain providing a valuable time series of baseline variability. Furthermore, utilizing forecast products from the FLEXPART Lagrangian transport model, we will initiate ‘Intensive Observing Periods’ (IOPs) during unique pollutant transport episodes in which it is suspected black carbon will be delivered efficiently to our sampling locations. The UAV will be flown ‘operationally’ during two campaigns, each covering approximately six months. The first campaign will take place in Svalbard, Norway with the objective of measuring snow albedo on polythermal glaciers and over sea ice. The second campaign will focus on the dry snow zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet operating out of the Summit Station observatory. The contrast between these two environments will not only provide an excellent opportunity for comparative measurements, but also enables the development of a data product for albedo with broad application to regional Arctic environments.

The primary goals of this project are to: a) establish highest quality measurements of Arctic albedo and background variability, b) quantify induced changes of albedo over snow/ice surfaces driven by transport/deposition of pollutants; c) contribute improved albedo measurements to climate modelers to evaluate feedback processes; d) further develop shared expertise between U.S. and Norwegian researchers working with climate data in Svalbard, Norway and throughout the Arctic.

Departments involved in this research project:

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