At the 10th annual NGEE-Arctic all-hands meeting this week, EESA scientific engineering associate Sigrid Dengel was honored with an NGEE-Arctic Data Award for having the most popular data set ever for the project, assessed by downloads from the project data portal! The data was obtained from an eddy flux site in Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, at an AmeriFlux site funded by the NGEE-Arctic project. The data went public for the first time in June 2020, and has already been downloaded more than 500 times.
Three hundred twenty miles north of the Arctic circle in Utqiagvik on Alaska’s northern slope, average high temperatures are at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit for 160 days per year. This cold, harsh climate creates a vast expanse of permafrost to help make this Arctic tundra biome one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet. For this reason, the Barrow Environmental Observatory is a prime location for EESA researchers investigating the possibility that billions of tons of carbon trapped in permafrost soils may be released into the atmosphere by the end of this century as the Earth’s climate changes, further accelerating global warming.
Since 2013 under the NGEE-Arctic project, EESA researchers have been collaborating with researchers at other national laboratories to collect various data from the Barrow Environmental Observatory in order to help improve understanding of how these soils respond to climate warming. Their activities include laying out cables and inserting electrodes into the ground, walking (or pulling by snowmobile) an electromagnetic sensor back and forth across a research plot, collecting ground-penetrating radar data, and even flying cameras on kites (to relate all the other measurements—that take place on a transect—to the wider tundra region).
Eddy covariance, however, is the only technique capable of providing continuous 24/7 monitoring of carbon dioxide and methane fluxes circulating between soils, plants, and the atmosphere at fairly large scale in remote locations such as this over months, years, and decades. The AmeriFlux site at Barrow, Alaska, is one of more than 500 research sites in the AmeriFlux Network.