The Arctic is warming at roughly twice the global rate, with warming particularly pronounced on Svalbard. Thus, Svalbard is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with reductions in snow, glaciers and sea ice, and an increase in precipitation falling as rain rather than snow.
In addition to climate warming, another factor that contributes to snow and ice melt is the deposition of light absorbing particles (LAP). LAP include black carbon (BC) produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil and biofuels, dust from regional sources and long-range transport, volcanic ash, and organics. When deposited on snow and ice surfaces, LAP darken the snow/ice surface which causes an increase in solar energy absorption, warming of the snow/ice, and accelerated snow and ice melt.
Numerous studies have investigated BC, dust and organics in snow and ice on Svalbard. What is striking about the research conducted to date is that these studies address a single LAP type (i.e. BC or dust or organics), but do not address the role of all LAP. BC is the most widely studied LAP because it is the darkest particle, and thus most effective at absorbing light, and has anthropogenic sources. However, albedo reductions (i.e. reduced snow reflectivity) from BC will be less in the presence of other LAP because the other LAP capture some of the solar radiation that the BC would receive in the absence of other LAP. Thus, to understand the role of LAP in snow darkening and melt it is imperative that all LAP types are investigated comprehensively.
The proposed field work will allow collection of bulk Svalbard snow samples from Holtedahlfonna, Konsvegen and Midtre Lovenbreen, which will be measured for BC, dust and organics. This research will provide needed measurements of BC, dust and organics in the same samples, and address the gap in knowledge about LAP induced albedo reductions and melt on Svalbard.