• Released Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017
  • Updated Tuesday, April 18th, 2023 at 12:00AM


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.

General Scenery

Airborne Science

A primary component of ABoVE's study includes an intensive series of research flights. Aircrafts outfitted with a variety of sensors 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.

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.

Arctic & Boreal Fires

Permafrost & Soil Moisture

2022 Field Season


The ABoVE field campaign is studying how Alaska and northwest Canada are changing in a rapidly warming climate. 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 & 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.

Produced Videos

Scientific Visualizations