As climate warming brings more wildfire to the North, scientists and citizens wonder how the landscape will be transformed. Will forests continue their 2000’s-era trend toward less spruce and more hardwoods, catalyzed by larger fires and more frequent burning? If so, that might slow down the trend for larger and more intense fires. However, will hotter summers with more effective drying lead to increased fire re-entry into the early successional hardwoods, making them less strategic barriers for fire protection? A research team modeling the former question just unveiled an interactive web tool to model forest changes under various future climate scenarios (Feb. 1 webinar recording available HERE). With the new web tool, funded by JFSP, Paul Duffy and Courtney Schultz will be working with fire managers in Alaska to look at fire occurrence and cost in the future. Try it for yourself at http://uasnap.shinyapps.io/jfsp-v10/
Estimates of carbon released from combustion of vegetation and organic soil during wildfires have improved dramatically over the past decade. Biomass inventory, fire effects and fire severity studies have contributed more accurate data to improve these models. (See Ottmar 2007, Brendan Rogers webinar 2015) However, figuring out the net effect of all the various effects of fire, the recovery phase and warming climate on the carbon stored in Alaska’s forests and tundra is a lot more challenging! You’d have to consider changes in burn extent and/or severity, increases in plant productivity in recovering burns, changes in species composition and what that means for productivity, changes in permafrost distribution and soil C decomposition, methane emissions and carbon fluxes in lake systems and wetlands–etc.! A team lead by Dr. Dave McGuire at UAF has taken on this modeling challenge by applying their Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) which includes modules for fire, permafrost, and carbon cycling. Dave recently presented an overview of their findings at an IARPC-WCT/AFSC joint webinar (presentation slides available HERE). In a nutshell, they found: 1) tundra holds 2x the carbon that boreal forest does in the same area 2) there has been a net C loss from boreal land area of about 8 Tg/yr over the last 60 years, primarily driven by large fires during the 2000’s 3) arctic tundra and SE Alaska still act as C sinks, compensating for these losses so that overall, Alaska sequesters about 3.7 Tg/yr, 4) increases in fire extent predicted with with warming climate will release even more C, but longer growing seasons and increased plant growth (as much as 8-19% increased productivity throughout the remainder of this century) with warmer climate and higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are estimated to offset these losses under most of the climate projection scenarios. Since this nutshell summary glosses over a lot, you should take a look at the slides and the SNAP projects page with information on scenarios and the individual models used.
Amy and Teresa will summarize the history of tundra fires in Alaska and share preliminary results of their research to characterize post-fire plant communities, quantify fuel accumulation, and model tundra fire regimes and vegetation dynamics.
National experts will be giving a talk to bring you up to speed on this issue if you’d like to know more about sources of soot in the atmosphere (including wildfire) and whether pollution control efforts are having any effect. Speakers include: In-situ ground sensing: Patricia Quinn (NOAA); Satellite remote sensing: Ralph Kahn (NASA); and Transport modeling: Mark Jacobson (Stanford).
The Atmosphere Collaboration Team of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) is hosting the second of two webinars on black carbon which are open to the community. The intent of the second webinar is to share information about current science questions and activities related to Arctic black carbon. Experts will be on hand to share information and answer questions in an effort to inform the Atmosphere Collaboration Team of IARPC of possible future interagency activities related to Arctic black carbon.
Black carbon is “the second most important human emission in terms of its climate-forcing in the present-day atmosphere; only carbon dioxide is estimated to have a greater forcing.” When BC is deposited on snow and ice, it darkens an otherwise bright surface. The darker surface may enhance the absorption of solar radiation resulting in an acceleration of snow and ice melting. In addition, BC particles suspended in the atmosphere absorb solar radiation and heat the surrounding air. Atmospheric BC can also alter cloud properties leading to changes in cloud amount and precipitation. Black carbon has multiple sources including domestic combustion for heating and cooking, diesel combustion related to transportation, fossil fuel and biofuel combustion for power generation, agricultural burning, and wildfires. Identification of the sources and types of black carbon (both the geographical region of the source and the combustion process) is necessary for effectively mitigating its climate impacts. In addition, measurements of black carbon are required to verify whether implemented mitigation strategies that target BC emissions from certain sources are actually leading to reductions in BC concentrations in the Arctic atmosphere and surface. In 2013, NOAA’s Arctic Report Card added a black carbon assessment to the Atmosphere Section; the primary conclusions of the assessment are that (1) the average equivalent black carbon concentrations in 2012 at locations Alert (Nunavut, Canada), Barrow (Alaska, USA) and Ny-Alesund (Svalbard, Norway) were similar to average EBC concentrations during the last decade and (2) equivalent black carbon has declined by as much as 55% during the 23 year record at Alert and Barrow (Sharma et al. 2013).
Organized by the Alaska Fire Modeling and Analysis Committee, this webinar employed an expert panel to look back at some of the modeling work that occurred in 2013, specifically focused on lessons learned that can be carried forward into 2014. Some important points covered–what’s the difference between fire modeling in FSPro vs. Canadian BEHAVE system; how to tweak landscape cover and crown fire models to get reasonable results; using auxiliary information like Google Earth, Landsat imagery, and MODIS hotspots to inform your run. Don’t forget, there is a manual–available on the FMAC page above!: FSPro Analysis in Alaska: A Users Guide
(Image: 7 day fire spread probability of Lime Hills fire, June 24, 2013, and June 30 perimeter (black line). Courtesy Lisa Saperstein.)
Dr. Matt Nolan shared results from his recent airborne photogrammetry campaigns in Alaska, and related them to possible fire and forest management applications in a webinar on February 25, 2014. There is now a 2-page Webinar Summary about the topic and you can also watch the recorded webinar (https://vimeo.com/87797023) on AFSC’s website. Dr. Nolan is a Research Associate Professor at UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering with degrees in geophysics and arctic and mechanical engineering. He’s been pioneering new high-tech uses of an old tool—the aerial photo. With new advances in computer processing and display technologies, airborne Digital SLR Photogrammetry is an even more powerful tool for field sciences, especially in remote areas like Alaska. Compared to LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, or aerial 3D laser scanning), the low cost of DSLR photogrammetry makes it more affordable to make time-series of high-resolution maps, opening up new possibilities for analyzing and understanding changes in the environment. Forest inventory, fire fuels assessments (like canopy height), snow depth, and post-burn vegetation recovery and monitoring are just a few examples of applications that could benefit from time-series of topographic measurements on an annual, monthly, or other repeating basis.
Live fuel moisture is measured frequently throughout the country as an indicator of potential fire behavior but little is known about the primary factors that drive their seasonal variations. Dr. Matt Jolly delves into the interactive factors that control live fuel moisture and discusses some of the potential implications of these factors on seasonal variations in the fire potential of living plants. He shows how the interactions between the water content of the foliage and seasonal changes in the leaf’s dry weight combine to influence calculated live fuel moisture and ultimately, its flammability.
Jan Passek, USFWS Fire Specialist, and Heidi Strader, Weather Forecaster from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center will demonstrate how to input daily weather observations used to calculate Fire Danger using WIMS–the Forest Service Weather Information Management System! The Webinar is 1:30 p.m. AST on Monday, February 25th. Come join the webinar as we discuss: WIMS Roles and responsibilities, Access Control Lists- what are they, who controls them?, NFDRS, Firefamily Plus, Weather Detective skills and what to look for Monday mornings to ensure weekend weather is updated. Registration information is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2012 Time:10:00 – 11:30 AM (AK Time)
Presented by:Matt Jolly, PhD
Research Ecologist, USFS
Fire, Fuel and Smoke Science Program
Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory
Live fuel moisture is measured frequently throughout the country as an indicator of potential fire behavior but little is known about the primary factors that drive their seasonal variations. Dr. Matt Jolly will delve into the interactive factors that control live fuel moisture and will discuss some of the potential implications of these factors on seasonal variations in the fire potential of living plants. Ultimately, he will show how the interactions between the water content of the foliage and seasonal changes in the leaf’s dry weight combine to influence calculated live fuel moisture and its flammability.
The 2007 Uluksian Fire (photo courtesy of P. Higuera).
Dr. Philip Higuera (assistant professor at the College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho) will be joining us for a webinar on May 24, 2012 (1:00-2:00 pm AKDT) entitled “Tundra burning in Alaska: Rare event of harbinger of climate change?”. Philip’s current research is focused on how climate, vegetation, and human activities interact with fire occurrence and fire regimes (from across years to across millenia). He is also the Director of the Paleoecology and Fire Ecology Lab where students and researchers work on charcoal and pollen analysis in lake-sediment records, dendrochronology, and spatially-explicit modeling and analyses for areas in the US Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and abroad in Tasmania, Australia.
Webinar at a Glance:
Dr. Philip Higuera will be presenting results from past and ongoing research focused on understanding the causes and consequences of tundra burning in the past, present, and future. The talk will integrate several lines of work, including reconstructing tundra fire history in the recent and distant past (2000-14,000 yr), quantifying relationships among modern climate, vegetation, and tundra burning, and anticipating future tundra burning given future climate scenarios.