Record heat fuels destructive fires in drought-baked Colorado

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:42 PM GMT on June 12, 2013

Destructive wildfires erupted in three locations in drought-baked Colorado on Tuesday, fanned by strong winds and the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the state so early in the year. The mercury soared to 100°F in Denver on Tuesday, their earliest 100° day on record (previous earliest 100° day: June 14, 2006, 102°.) It was the second consecutive day Denver recorded its hottest temperature for so early in the year. At Lamar in Southeast Colorado, the mercury soared to 111°, just one degree below their hottest temperature ever measured, and 3° shy of the all-time hottest temperature ever measured in Colorado, the 114° reading in Sedgwick on July 11, 1954. The most destructive fire in Colorado Tuesday was the Black Forest fire burning near Colorado Springs. The fire destroyed over 60 buildings and forced the evacuation of several thousand people. The fire was aided by nearly ideal conditions on Tuesday afternoon--Colorado Springs hit 97° (only the 2nd time the city has been that hot this early in the year), with sustained winds of 29 mph gusting to 36 mph, and a humidity of 4%. Colorado Springs is under extreme drought.


Figure 1. A garage is fully engulfed in flames as the Black Forest Fire continues to burn out of control northeast of Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 11, 2013. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Getty Images)


Figure 2. Wild fires burn near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Springs, and Royal Gorge in Colorado, and in two locations in New Mexico, at 4:40 pm EDT June 11, 2013. Record heat and strong winds hit the region on Tuesday, causing critical fire conditions. The Image credit: NASA.

The forecast: better, but still dangerous
Fire conditions will not be as dangerous in Colorado today, as winds will be lower, and temperatures will be a few degrees cooler due to a weak cold front that moved through the state overnight. Nevertheless, the air is still extremely dry and temperatures will be very hot, making it difficult for firefighters to gain the upper hand on the blazes. A red flag warning for dangerous fire conditions is posted for Colorado Springs, where winds of 10 - 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph, are expected in combination with relative humidities as low as 9% and temperatures in the low 90s. Colorado and New Mexico can expect a destructive fire season the remainder of June and into July, due to severe to exceptional drought conditions and hot temperatures. Relief will likely come in July with the arrival of wetter conditions thanks to the annual Southwest U.S. monsoon. Colorado Springs experienced the most expensive wildfire in Colorado history in 2012, the $353 million Waldo Canyon fire. The burn started on June 23rd and burned through July 10th, burning a total of 18,247 acres. Approximately 347 homes were burned, 2 people were killed, and over 32,000 residents were evacuated.


Video 1. A close escape from the Colorado Springs Black Forest fire. "I could hear the roar and the explosions of residential propane tanks heading toward Black Forest and Shoup Roads. Then came a wave of intense heat followed by a burst of fast-moving, oncoming flames. Firefighters and cops panicked, ordering me to leave: "Take pictures somewhere else," yelled one officer. I'm certain within moments of my escape the fire gobbled up a gas station and Firehouse BBQ restaurant at the corner I was standing on."

Related: Wildfires in the U.S. will be at least twice as destructive by 2050, burning around 20 million acres nationwide each year, according to a federal report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012. The report cited research predicting that a 1.8°F increase in temperature in Colorado would cause a factor of 2.8 - 6.6 increase in fire area burned.

Wunderground member mfrazzz has a webcam pointed at the Colorado Springs Black Forest fire.


Figure 3. Severe weather outlook for Wednesday.

Severe weather outbreak Wednesday and Thursday
Tens of millions of Americans will be subject to a large outbreak of severe thunderstorms on Wednesday and Thursday, as a powerful low pressure system moves from the Great Lakes area to the East Coast. The greatest danger on Wednesday is for an organized complex of thunderstorms, possibly becoming a "derecho" event that brings widespread damaging straight-line winds to multiple states. A few strong tornadoes are also possible, and the Storm Prediction Center has issued their highest level of alert "High Risk" for Chicago and northern Indiana. This is the first "High Risk" forecast SPC has put out in 2013. Today marks the first "High Risk" forecast for Chicago since May 30, 2004, and the 16th since 1980. You can follow the outbreak on our severe weather page.


Jeff Masters

Pyrocumulus from Rocky Mountain National Park fire (JeffMasters)
The Big Meadows fire was caused by lightning in Rocky Mountain National Park. The heat from the fire made some respectable pyrocumulus clouds as I watched from Snow Mountain, above the YMCA camp where the Chapman Conference on Climate Change was occurring.
Pyrocumulus from Rocky Mountain National Park fire
JarosoFire(2) (taosmtngirl)
Thundercloud created by fire below. See Gil's (gilg7) photos also.
JarosoFire(2)
Silver Fire, Gila National Forest (Shotonsite)
Burning in the Black Range in the Gila National Forest in SW New Mexico.
Silver Fire, Gila National Forest

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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1274. weathermanwannabe
2:58 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Little bit of a broad circulation trying to spin up between South Florida and the Bahamas looking at the hi-res loops in a little pocket of low shear.

Jeez, give a tiny remnant over the Gulf Stream in June a very tiny low sheer window (even though surrounded by very dry air and high sheer to the East and South) and it wants to become a player..............

Link

Not going to happen; no vorticity at the surface:

Link

And sitting right under a huge ULL/Tutt Cell dumping dry sinking air into it:

Link
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1273. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
2:55 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
1272. Dakster
2:55 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/louisiana-chemical -plant-explosion/

How about here?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1271. ScottLincoln
2:51 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Luisport:
BREAKING: Massive explosion and fire at Louisiana chemical plant, high death toll expected

I haven't seen any local media report anything suggesting that at this time.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1270. washingtonian115
2:48 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Patrap:
CWG,,putting the "Capital" flair on whats available free on the WWW.

No sequestration there.


Link


Link
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1269. GeorgiaStormz
2:46 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
As this line moves east, and storms develop ahead of it, the main severe wx risk for today will develop

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1268. GeorgiaStormz
2:44 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Luisport:
BREAKING: Massive explosion and fire at Louisiana chemical plant, high death toll expected



Twitter is a great instant source of info, but you cant repost everything.

Who said it was a high death toll expected?

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1267. Patrap
2:43 PM GMT on June 13, 2013

Smoke billows after an explosion rocked the Williams Olefins plant near Geismar, Louisiana, Thursday morning. June 13, 2013 (Chris Brooks)

Explosion at Williams Olefins plant in Geismar

An explosion occurred at the Williams Olefins plant near Geismar, La. on Thursday morning, Louisiana State Police Trooper Jared Sandifer confirmed.

The explosion was reported just after 8:30 a.m. Sandifer said there are possible injuries.

As of 9:30 a.m., LA 74 and LA 30 at LA 3115 are closed due to the explosion, which state police described as a "haz-mat incident." State police suggest using an alternate route.

Several witnesses also reported the explosion. Plants around the area were reportedly being evacuated.

A thick cloud of black smoke could be seen from where the road was blocked off.

No other details were immediately available.

Follow NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for updates.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1266. GeorgiaStormz
2:42 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting presslord:


What the hell does this mean?!?!


Ooops, meant to say alabama, its fixed now....

If i meant north and south carolina, i would have just said 'The Carolinas'
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1265. daddyjames
2:40 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Grothar:
Thank you all very much. My family and I were very touched. (And as most of you know I was already a little bit "touched" before.

This is for all of you.






Grothar sends us a message from his blog. Hooray!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1264. Luisport
2:40 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
BREAKING: Massive explosion and fire at Louisiana chemical plant, high death toll expected
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1263. Patrap
2:40 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
CWG,,putting the "Capital" flair on whats available free on the WWW.

No sequestration there.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1262. weatherbow
2:39 PM GMT on June 13, 2013

Quoting Skyepony:

You messed that up so badly someone will have to fix that in SF when they get to work..I put in for it. Everyone in an incompatible browser needs to set your page to 50 comments a page & you will be good.
Thanks for your help! :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1261. Luisport
2:39 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Emergency manager reports one person injured from a lightning strike in Rising Sun, MD
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1260. washingtonian115
2:37 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


Why.....
Everybody is doing that now, and I'm a cheap guy.
I'm not exactly sure.I need to read it again.Probably trying to make it exclusive like the NY times.Those sequester budget cuts are having a affect on us weather nerds.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1259. Patrap
2:36 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1258. presslord
2:35 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Some models show a break in the line in Ga.....

storms in SC and carolina....we'll see

also if isolated storms did develop, areas in eastern GA toward SC would have the highest risk of an EF0-EF1 type spinup....

I highly doubt one occurs though, but with quick storm development you never know.


What the hell does this mean?!?!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1257. Skyepony (Mod)
2:35 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting weatherbow:

None taken. Actually, I've been asking for that too.

You messed that up so badly someone will have to fix that in SF when they get to work..I put in for it. Everyone in an incompatible browser needs to set your page to 50 comments a page & you will be good.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1256. GeorgiaStormz
2:33 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting washingtonian115:
BTW CWG will have a pay wall up soon meaning you will have to subscribe in order to view there blogs.It will go into affect gradually.

Are the models still showing tropical development?.

Nea just giving a friendly heads up is all :).


Why.....
Everybody is doing that now, and I'm a cheap guy.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1255. Patrap
2:32 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Penn State E-WALL : THE ELECTRONIC MAP WALL

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1254. GeorgiaStormz
2:31 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Some models show a break in the line in Ga.....

storms in SC and alabama....we'll see

also if isolated storms did develop, areas in eastern GA toward SC would have the highest risk of an EF0-EF1 type spinup....

I highly doubt one occurs though, but with quick storm development you never know.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1253. washingtonian115
2:27 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
BTW CWG will have a pay wall up soon meaning you will have to subscribe in order to view there blogs.It will go into affect gradually.

Are the models still showing tropical development?.

Nea just giving a friendly heads up is all :).
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1252. hydrus
2:22 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1251. daddyjames
2:21 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting barbamz:


Barely, lol :)


LOL - but at least you did. :P

Quoting weatherbow:

None taken. Actually, I've been asking for that too.


+1

Quoting Neapolitan:
Well, then, it was a good thing you were able to quote that suggestion in its entirety, wasn't it? ;-)

The Washington Post had a great blog post last evening discussing the derecho/not derecho aspect of today's event: Stop focusing on whether it's a derecho or not: it's a serious storm risk.


+1, could not see the link wanted to read it ;)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1250. Patrap
2:21 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
news.google.com
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1249. Patrap
2:20 PM GMT on June 13, 2013


www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/yesterday
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1248. washingtonian115
2:20 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Neapolitan:
Well, then, it was a good thing you were able to quote that suggestion in its entirety, wasn't it? ;-)

The Washington Post had a great blog post last evening discussing the derecho/not derecho aspect of today's event: Stop focusing on whether it's a derecho or not: it's a serious storm risk.
They have other cool little blogs as well and safety tip.Best weather service on the web for local and national weather.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1247. AussieStorm
2:17 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Evening all.

How is everyone. What was the damages from the severe weather last night there. Is it still on going. Also please tell me no deaths from this severe weather.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1246. daddyjames
2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Birthmark:

At least it would be interesting. Peace is pretty boring, which is why there are so few monuments to it.


Yeah, that's a shame and needs to be changed.

We memorialize only that which causes pain and
heartbreak.

Kind of like the "drama" people were commenting on
about the oversell of the derecho by the media
(eariler in the comments).
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1245. Neapolitan
2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting daddyjames:
Could not see the friendly suggestion
Well, then, it was a good thing you were able to quote that suggestion in its entirety, wasn't it? ;-)

The Washington Post had a great blog post last evening discussing the derecho/not derecho aspect of today's event: Stop focusing on whether it's a derecho or not: it's a serious storm risk.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1244. weatherbow
2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2013

Quoting daddyjames:
No offense weatherbow . . .

Hey mods! Can we get a delete of posts #1172 and #1176?

Thanks.
None taken. Actually, I've been asking for that too.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1243. GeorgiaStormz
2:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting weatherbow:
Does anyone know how bad the threat in the mid-Atlantic will be today? I'm still extremely confused with how the "derecho" plays in the role of storm development this afternoon.



If it had died there would have been more instability...it's still getting quite nasty north of DC


with that said, storms with mainly wind, but also hail and tornados in supercells, will develop this afternoon in the MDT risk area, along with explosive development down through the SE
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1242. Patrap
2:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
.."the pain of war can not exceed, the woe of aftermath"..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1241. weatherbow
2:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2013

Quoting washingtonian115:
That is what the scene looked like here in D.C but with less lightning.Now the sun is back out fueling what should be our doom later on.
The sun is also out here too. It isn't looking good.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1240. barbamz
2:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting daddyjames:


Sorry barbmz - was thinking that the width being defined
twice may have been what mucked up the blog.
But it appears that it was not you.

Forgive me? :)


Barely, lol :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1239. RitaEvac
2:14 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Getting ready to shoot that avatar, ;)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1238. daddyjames
2:14 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
No offense weatherbow . . .

Hey mods! Can we get a delete of posts #1172 and #1176?

Thanks.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1237. washingtonian115
2:13 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Doppler22:
Link

A video I took of the line of storms earlier this morning. Sorry for my family talking in the background as I like to stay silent while i'm taking a video
That is what the scene looked like here in D.C but with less lightning.Now the sun is back out fueling what should be our doom later on.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1235. weatherbow
2:12 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Does anyone know how bad the threat in the mid-Atlantic will be today? I'm still extremely confused with how the "derecho" plays in the role of storm development this afternoon.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1234. daddyjames
2:11 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting bappit:
Can anyone post War and Peace? (Since we're all kvetching this morning.)


Only kvetching as we cannot read half of what is posted.

So we would only get the War part of War and Peace.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1233. daddyjames
2:10 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting barbamz:


I couldn't see anything wrong with it, no width was defined in my post (and no one ever complained until now when I've posted our cathedral cam):
img src="http://mzcam.kunden-mediamachine.de/markt/bil d.jpg
But I took it down for you. Link to the cam.


Sorry barbmz - was thinking that the width being defined
twice may have been what mucked up the blog.
But it appears that it was not you.

Forgive me? :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1232. bappit
2:08 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Can anyone post War and Peace? (Since we're all kvetching this morning.)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1231. Doppler22
2:07 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Link

A video I took of the line of storms earlier this morning. Sorry for my family talking in the background as I like to stay silent while i'm taking a video
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1230. Patrap
2:01 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?


Permafrost zones occupy nearly a quarter of the exposed land area of the Northern Hemisphere. NASA's Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment is probing deep into the frozen lands above the Arctic Circle in Alaska to measure emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane from thawing permafrost - signals that may hold a key to Earth's climate future. Image credit: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

Flying low and slow above the wild, pristine terrain of Alaska's North Slope in a specially instrumented NASA plane, research scientist Charles Miller of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., surveys the endless whiteness of tundra and frozen permafrost below. On the horizon, a long, dark line appears. The plane draws nearer, and the mysterious object reveals itself to be a massive herd of migrating caribou, stretching for miles. It's a sight Miller won't soon forget.

"Seeing those caribou marching single-file across the tundra puts what we're doing here in the Arctic into perspective," said Miller, principal investigator of the Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), a five-year NASA-led field campaign studying how climate change is affecting the Arctic's carbon cycle.

"The Arctic is critical to understanding global climate," he said. "Climate change is already happening in the Arctic, faster than its ecosystems can adapt. Looking at the Arctic is like looking at the canary in the coal mine for the entire Earth system."

Aboard the NASA C-23 Sherpa aircraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., Miller, CARVE Project Manager Steve Dinardo of JPL and the CARVE science team are probing deep into the frozen lands above the Arctic Circle. The team is measuring emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane from thawing permafrost -- signals that may hold a key to Earth's climate future.

What Lies Beneath

Permafrost (perennially frozen) soils underlie much of the Arctic. Each summer, the top layers of these soils thaw. The thawed layer varies in depth from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in the coldest tundra regions to several yards, or meters, in the southern boreal forests. This active soil layer at the surface provides the precarious foothold on which Arctic vegetation survives. The Arctic's extremely cold, wet conditions prevent dead plants and animals from decomposing, so each year another layer gets added to the reservoirs of organic carbon sequestered just beneath the topsoil.

Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon - an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That's about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth's soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.

But, as scientists are learning, permafrost - and its stored carbon - may not be as permanent as its name implies. And that has them concerned.

"Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures - as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years," Miller said. "As heat from Earth's surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic's carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming."

Current climate models do not adequately account for the impact of climate change on permafrost and how its degradation may affect regional and global climate. Scientists want to know how much permafrost carbon may be vulnerable to release as Earth's climate warms, and how fast it may be released.

CARVing Out a Better Understanding of Arctic Carbon

Enter CARVE. Now in its third year, this NASA Earth Ventures program investigation is expanding our understanding of how the Arctic's water and carbon cycles are linked to climate, as well as what effects fires and thawing permafrost are having on Arctic carbon emissions. CARVE is testing hypotheses that Arctic carbon reservoirs are vulnerable to climate warming, while delivering the first direct measurements and detailed regional maps of Arctic carbon dioxide and methane sources and demonstrating new remote sensing and modeling capabilities. About two dozen scientists from 12 institutions are participating.

"The Arctic is warming dramatically - two to three times faster than mid-latitude regions - yet we lack sustained observations and accurate climate models to know with confidence how the balance of carbon among living things will respond to climate change and related phenomena in the 21st century," said Miller. "Changes in climate may trigger transformations that are simply not reversible within our lifetimes, potentially causing rapid changes in the Earth system that will require adaptations by people and ecosystems."

The CARVE team flew test flights in 2011 and science flights in 2012. This April and May, they completed the first two of seven planned monthly campaigns in 2013, and they are currently flying their June campaign.

Each two-week flight campaign across the Alaskan Arctic is designed to capture seasonal variations in the Arctic carbon cycle: spring thaw in April/May, the peak of the summer growing season in June/July, and the annual fall refreeze and first snow in September/October. From a base in Fairbanks, Alaska, the C-23 flies up to eight hours a day to sites on Alaska's North Slope, interior and Yukon River Valley over tundra, permafrost, boreal forests, peatlands and wetlands.

The C-23 won't win any beauty contests - its pilots refer to it as "a UPS truck with a bad nose job." Inside, it's extremely noisy - the pilots and crew wear noise-cancelling headphones to communicate. "When you take the headphones off, it's like being at a NASCAR race," Miller quipped.

But what the C-23 lacks in beauty and quiet, it makes up for in reliability and its ability to fly "down in the mud," so to speak. Most of the time, it flies about 500 feet (152 meters) above ground level, with periodic ascents to higher altitudes to collect background data. Most airborne missions measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane do not fly as low. "CARVE shows you need to fly very close to the surface in the Arctic to capture the interesting exchanges of carbon taking place between Earth's surface and atmosphere," Miller said.

Onboard the plane, sophisticated instruments "sniff" the atmosphere for greenhouse gases. They include a very sensitive spectrometer that analyzes sunlight reflected from Earth's surface to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. This instrument is an airborne simulator for NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission to be launched in 2014. Other instruments analyze air samples from outside the plane for the same chemicals. Aircraft navigation data and basic weather data are also collected. Initial data are delivered to scientists within 12 hours. Air samples are shipped to the University of Colorado's Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research Stable Isotope Laboratory and Radiocarbon Laboratory in Boulder for analyses to determine the carbon's sources and whether it came from thawing permafrost.

Much of CARVE's science will come from flying at least three years, Miller says. "We are showing the power of using dependable, low-cost prop planes to make frequent, repeat measurements over time to look for changes from month to month and year to year."

Ground observations complement the aircraft data and are used to calibrate and validate them. The ground sites serve as anchor points for CARVE's flight tracks. Ground data include air samples from tall towers and measurements of soil moisture and temperature to determine whether soil is frozen, thawed or flooded.

A Tale of Two Greenhouse Gases

It's important to accurately characterize the soils and state of the land surfaces. There's a strong correlation between soil characteristics and release of carbon dioxide and methane. Historically, the cold, wet soils of Arctic ecosystems have stored more carbon than they have released. If climate change causes the Arctic to get warmer and drier, scientists expect most of the carbon to be released as carbon dioxide. If it gets warmer and wetter, most will be in the form of methane.

The distinction is critical. Molecule per molecule, methane is 22 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a 100-year timescale, and 105 times more potent on a 20-year timescale. If just one percent of the permafrost carbon released over a short time period is methane, it will have the same greenhouse impact as the 99 percent that is released as carbon dioxide. Characterizing this methane to carbon dioxide ratio is a major CARVE objective.

There are other correlations between Arctic soil characteristics and the release of carbon dioxide and methane. Variations in the timing of spring thaw and the length of the growing season have a major impact on vegetation productivity and whether high northern latitude regions generate or store carbon.

CARVE is also studying wildfire impacts on the Arctic's carbon cycle. Fires in boreal forests or tundra accelerate the thawing of permafrost and carbon release. Detailed fire observation records since 1942 show the average annual number of Alaska wildfires has increased, and fires with burn areas larger than 100,000 acres are occurring more frequently, trends scientists expect to accelerate in a warming Arctic. CARVE's simultaneous measurements of greenhouse gases will help quantify how much carbon is released to the atmosphere from fires in Alaska - a crucial and uncertain element of its carbon budget.

Early Results

The CARVE science team is busy analyzing data from its first full year of science flights. What they're finding, Miller said, is both amazing and potentially troubling.

"Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we've measured have been large, and we're seeing very different patterns from what models suggest," Miller said. "We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That's similar to what you might find in a large city."

Ultimately, the scientists hope their observations will indicate whether an irreversible permafrost tipping point may be near at hand. While scientists don't yet believe the Arctic has reached that tipping point, no one knows for sure. "We hope CARVE may be able to find that 'smoking gun,' if one exists," Miller said.

Other institutions participating in CARVE include City College of New York; the joint University of Colorado/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, Colo.; San Diego State University; University of California, Irvine; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; University of California, Berkeley; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; University of California, Santa Barbara; NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colo.; and University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

For more information on CARVE, visit: http://science.nasa.gov/missions/carve/ .



Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1229. daddyjames
2:01 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting Neapolitan:
Weatherbow, your comments #1172 and #1176 are the ones that messed up the page.
A friendly suggestion: next time, maybe past plain text into the comment box, rather than pasting webpages
with all their wonky markup.


Could not see the friendly suggestion

Quoting zampaz:

I'd plus that but can't see the button! har har har har.


And ditto that for me.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1228. weatherbow
2:00 PM GMT on June 13, 2013

Quoting Neapolitan:
Weatherbow, your comments #1172 and #1176 are the ones that messed up the page. A friendly suggestion: next time, maybe past plain text into the comment box, rather than pasting webpages, with all their wonky markup.
Thanks for the help! I've been trying to figure out how to paste that way though. I know I've done it before.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1227. islander101010
1:58 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
up and coming s.floridian senator who has ambitions to be president voted against aid . he might wish he voted otherwise. question when will s florida get its turn again.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1226. Neapolitan
1:57 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Weatherbow, your comments #1172 and #1176 are the ones that messed up the page. A friendly suggestion: next time, maybe past plain text into the comment box, rather than pasting webpages, with all their wonky markup.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1225. Luisport
1:55 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Capital Weather Gang‏@capitalweather2 min
Let's be clear: we *never* thought these AM storms would be a huge deal. The concern remains this PM. More on that soon.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1224. barbamz
1:53 PM GMT on June 13, 2013
Quoting daddyjames: img src="http://mzcam.kunden-mediamachine.de/markt/bil d.jpg" style="max-width: 501px; width: 500px;

barabmz - you have width defined twice in your image, could you fix it? Also, good afternoo, and hope that things are slowly improving in Europe, although I know it will take some time.



I couldn't see anything wrong with it, no width was defined in my post (and no one ever complained until now when I've posted our cathedral cam):
img src="http://mzcam.kunden-mediamachine.de/markt/bil d.jpg
But I took it down for you. Link to the cam.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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