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USDA Russia Arctic Black Carbon Initiative
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Primorsky Krai wildfire

Background: In December 2009, within the framework of the UN Climate Change Conference, the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced the Administration’s commitment of $5 million towards international cooperation to reduce black carbon emissions and the associated warming effects in and around the Arctic. Black carbon is a short-lived warming agent that is particularly damaging to the Arctic by darkening ice and hastening melting. Decreasing black carbon emissions is a strategy to mitigate near-term warming in the Arctic. The U.S. initiative to address black carbon emissions, supported by the U.S. State Department, will build on the ongoing analysis of the Arctic Council Task Force on Short Lived Climate Forcers and other domestic and international assessments. Multiple concurrent projects are being initiated to address the most significant contributors of black carbon emissions that reach the Arctic, including diesel engines, agricultural burning and forest fires, and stationary sources such as district heating and heavy industrial facilities in high northern latitudes.

Black Carbon in the Arctic : Assessment of and Efforts to Reduce Black Carbon
Emissions from Wildfires and Agricultural Burning in Russia
(a poster)

Developing Options for Avoiding, Reducing or Mitigating Agricultural Burning that Contributes to Black Carbon Deposition in the Arctic:Report on Technical and Farmer Outreach Workshops of
FAS Component of USDA Black Carbon Initiative
(final report)

New USDA Program: Chemical analysis of particles deposited on Arctic snow suggests that biomass burning, including agricultural burning and forest fires, is the main source of black carbon deposition in the Arctic. According to estimates from chemical transport models and satellite observations of fire and smoke plumes, international experts believe burning across Eurasia is a significant source of Arctic black carbon. In an effort to mitigate black carbon emissions from biomass burning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working on a multi-agency program for collaborative research and international technical cooperation to achieve the following goals: 1) develop data and models to improve estimation of black carbon emissions and transport; 2) increase science-based knowledge among scientists and practitioners of black carbon emissions from agricultural burning and forest fires; 3) facilitate technical cooperation and exchange between US and partner countries to improve fire management and regulation of agricultural burning; and 4) identify and promote feasible options for farmers to reduce black carbon emissions from agricultural burning.  This USDA program focuses on US collaboration with Russia to jointly address these Arctic black carbon objectives through research, technical exchanges and other cooperative activities.

USDA Research Activities: The U.S. Forest Service and Agricultural Research Service are leading USDA research efforts on black carbon emissions from fires. Under this initiative, USDA scientists are seeking to improve estimation of emissions and transport of black carbon from agricultural burning and forest fires by quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of these emissions in Eurasia and conducting an assessment of long-range transport of black carbon from fires in Russia and adjoining regions to the Arctic. The research will also identify meteorological conditions and potential source locations for Arctic transport of smoke and improve detection of burned areas, particularly in agricultural areas, to improve black carbon emissions estimate.

USDA Technical Exchange and Other Cooperative Activities:
Under this initiative, the U.S. Forest Service and Foreign Agricultural Service are implementing technical exchanges and cooperation between U.S. and Russian experts on black carbon, agricultural burning, and fire management. These efforts are supporting training activities and the development and implementation of local-level “pilot” programs designed to illustrate strategies and practices that could be more broadly applied to reduce any negative environmental impact of agricultural and forest fires. This initiative is also working to identify feasible alternatives to agricultural burning for implementation by farmers in Russia.

Contact: For additional information, please contact: Brad Kinder (blkinder@fs.fed.us, 202-644-4557) at the US Forest Service International Programs.


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