June 16, 2008

Forest Fires’ Impact on Climate Studied

The U.S. space agency says it will soon begin the final weeks of a program studying the effect forest fires have on Arctic climate.

Starting June 29, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said its aircraft will begin following the trail of smoke plumes from some of Earth's northernmost forest fires, examining their contribution to arctic pollution and implications for climate change.

NASA's DC-8 and P-3B aircraft, based at a Canadian military base in Cold Lake, Alberta, will begin the final three-week deployment of the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites, or ARCTAS, mission. A third NASA aircraft, a B-200 King Air, will fly from Yellowknife, Canada.

NASA officials said the mission is the most extensive field campaign conducted to study the chemistry of the Arctic's lower atmosphere. The three airborne laboratories are equipped to fly through the smoke plumes of northern-latitude forest fires. The resulting data, when combined with simultaneous satellite measurements, could reveal the impact of forest fires on the arctic atmosphere.

The ARCTAS summer deployment follows a spring program based in Fairbanks, Alaska. That mission focused on atmospheric composition, pollution transport pathways and the formation of arctic haze.