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Mitigating Arctic Black Carbon Deposition

Photo of Daily prediction of atmospheric black carbon originating in the United States transported to the Arctic. Forest ServiceDaily prediction of atmospheric black carbon originating in the United States transported to the Arctic. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Scientists identify meteorological conditions when black carbon does not travel to the Arctic

Principal Investigators(s) :
Larkin, Sim 
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 74


A new study of the ability of emissions to be transported to the Arctic is providing managers and policymakers with information relevant to mitigating Arctic black carbon deposition from the United States. Black carbon is the sooty particulate matter produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass which readily absorbs sunlight and warms the atmosphere. When black carbon is deposited on snow, it absorbs light and heat and accelerates melting.

This study used 30-year climatology of atmospheric transport patterns along with a real-time forecasting system. Scientists found that even in locations and during seasons where emissions can be quickly transported to the Arctic during normal conditions, a number of timeframes still exist when Arctic transport does not occur. By refocusing prescribed burning and other emission activities into these timeframes where transport does not occur, mitigation of Arctic black carbon deposition is possible.

This work was used in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Report to Congress on Arctic Black Carbon, finalized in May 2012. The work identified ways to mitigate Arctic black carbon deposition and yet avoid seasonal bans on prescribed burning. This work was also presented at a meeting in Moscow with the Russian Engineering Academy of Management and Agrobusiness.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Joint Fire Science Program, Sonoma Technology, Inc., USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, US State Department

Program Areas