ABoVE

The Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, or ABoVE, is a NASA-led, 10-year field experiment designed to better understand the ecological and social consequences of environmental change in one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth. Satellite, airborne, and ground observations across Alaska and Canada will help us better understand the local and regional effects of changing forests, permafrost, and ecosystems – and how these changes could ultimately affect people and places beyond the Arctic.

This resource gallery provides a snapshot of just a few of the field campaigns that took place in 2016. In 2017, many of the same efforts are continuing, although some of their observational methods will change; during the spring and summer, ABoVE will conduct an intensive series of research flights. Eight aircraft outfitted with a variety of sensors will fly primarily from Fairbanks, Alaska and Yellowknife, Canada. This ambitious airborne campaign seeks to capture new insights into vegetation structure and function, permafrost thaw, and the exchange of water vapor, energy, carbon dioxide and methane between land-water surface and the atmosphere.

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General scenery

Methane lakes

Many lakes in the boreal regions of Alaska are emitting methane, the product of decomposing organic matter left over from the Ice Age. Thawing permafrost has caused areas of land to slump and fill up with water, creating these bodies of water called thermokarst lakes. The water then exacerbates the thawing, expanding the size of the lake and producing even more methane. In the early cold season, ice covers the lakes and traps methane in large pockets just beneath the surface. University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists, working as part of the ABoVE campaign, find and measure the methane gas in these pockets seep-by-seep and lake-by-lake. ABoVE combines precise methane measurements from individual lakes with satellite data that can monitor lakes like these across the Arctic, to accurately model how much methane sub-lake seeps are adding to the atmosphere.

CARVE Tower

The ABoVE field campaign is studying how Alaska and northwest Canada are changing in a rapidly warming climate. On a hot Wednesday morning of July 13, ABoVE deputy science lead Chip Miller checked in on a tower that has played a key role in tracking the changes in greenhouse gases since 2011. Instruments on the tower, which is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, measure the amount of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane in the air. The tower measures gases that drift in from as far away as Canada and the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

Subsistence resources and Bonanza Creek

One of ABoVE's research projects investigates how access to subsistence resources like game, berries, and the assets of neighboring villages is changing in a warming climate. Those changes can include increased wildfires, an early thaw of river ice, or a trail sunk by thawing permafrost. This collection of footage is from the Tanana River region southwest of Fairbanks, and includes a burned area study called Bonanza Creek and footage from nearby areas of permafrost and sphagnum moss.

Measuring fire severity

Produced videos

A link to two produced videos, one highlighting lakes in the boreal regions of Alaska that are emitting methane, and the second featuring ABoVE scientist Chip Miller as he provides a brief introduction to the CARVE tower, which monitors the atmosphere all year round.
  • ABoVE campaign videos
    2016.08.26
    The Arctic Boreal and Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) covers 2.5 million square miles of tundra, forests, permafrost and lakes in Alaska and Northwestern Canada. ABoVE scientists are using satellites and aircraft to study this formidable terrain as it changes in a warming climate. Remote sensing by itself is not enough to understand the whole picture, so teams of researchers will go out into the field to gather data. With support from NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology Program, ABoVE researchers investigate questions about the role of climate in wildfires, thawing permafrost, wildlife migration habits, insect outbreaks and more.