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Introduction to Field Data Collection - Overview

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Our group was led by Dr. Fritz Nelson and included Anna Klene, Jeremy Harris, Jerry Mueller, Nickolai Shiklomanov, and Mike Walegur. Other researchers involved with active layer field work at the same time were, Dr. Ken Hinkel, Wendy Eisner, Dr. Sam Outcalt, and Laura Miller ( University of Cincinnati), Dr. Jim Bockheim (University of Wisconsin), and Linn Everett (Ohio State University).

As a TEA my research team was part of an international study of the arctic tundra biome. Our group was composed of physical geographers who were looking at permafrost annual surface thaw depth across a 28000 sq. km study area ( The Kuparuk River basin).

Obviously, in a region that big, it is rather difficult to make a direct observation on every individual square meter or even on every square km. In fact, the entire area of interest to the study is all of the permafrost found in the Northern Hemisphere.

The basic hypothesis of the ARCSS/LAII(Arctic System Science / Land - Atmosphere - Ice Interactions ) Flux study is that a sensitive environment, like a tundra biome, will be the first place to show signs of climate change, and that change is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.( man-caused release of greenhouse gases.)

One of the changes in the biome that is of most concern is the possible increase of the depth to which the permafrost thaws each spring and summer.( the active layer) Such thawing is potentially significant to the overall carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere. As the active layer gets thicker, the amount of soil that can support bacterial growth increases and therefore the amount of carbon dioxide produced by natural activity increases. While a 1 cm increase of the active layer in the northern portion of the study area may not seem like much, it amounts to a 10% increase in the active layer. Bacterial activity also increases with a temperature increase. This increase in activity correspondes to an increase in the production of natural greenhouse gases.

Our group was developing a mapping technique that incorporated data on soils, vegetation, altitude, latitude, direction of slope, and temperature (in the form of degree days) to produce a map that would accurately predict the thaw depth over a large area. Our field measurements were used to refine and validate the sensing techniques used to make the map.

For more information on the map see the web site.

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