The Current

Wildfires Are Melting Greenland: Expedition Notes

Climate scientists Jason Box and McKenzie Skiles are packing up their ice core drills and heading to Greenland on a crowd-funded expedition.

DYE-2 station, snowmobile in front for scale.     Photo: J. Box

Last summer, I beheld my home state of Colorado on fire. Yet, as the media focused on record-setting property loss and devastated mountain communities, my mind was thousands of miles away, in Greenland. I wondered: How much could a growing supply of airborne wildfire soot be contributing to the decline of Greenland's ice reflectivity? How important is soot to amplifying Greenland's melt?

My colleague McKenzie Skiles and I need to travel to Greenland to take samples and put hard numbers on these questions, which is why we launched the Dark Snow crowdfunding campaign. Specifically, we aim to sample Greenland ice and snow to gauge the impact of light-absorbing impurities from increasing wildfire and industrial soot. The ice sheet has been darkening, doubling ice melt rates since year 2000. 

The project has so far been like a first ascent, with no guarantee we’d reach our objective, to mount the first Internet crowd-funded Greenland science expedition. Would we inspire enough people to pledge a crowd fund total of $120,000? That question has had me losing sleep since launching Dark Snow Project 6 December, 2012.

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