Kansas State University a part of collaborative effort for study of Arctic warming trends and effects
Friday, Sept. 22, 2017
MANHATTAN — With Arctic warming accelerating over past decades, the resultant invasion of trees and shrubs into tundra in Alaska, Canada and Russia has altered surface-energy fluxes and hydrology.
Researchers, including Aleksey Sheshukov, Kansas State University assistant professor in biological and agricultural engineering, are set to develop a mechanistic and quantitative understanding of the changing heat-exchange seasonality and thinning permafrost — an important, yet understudied linkage with the vegetation shift.
A three-year collaborative proposal has been funded by the National Science Foundation Arctic Research Opportunities Office of Polar Programs to provide independent awards, combining for nearly $1 million, to faculty at Kansas State University, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech University and Ohio State University, for the project "Collaborative Research: Hydrologic and Permafrost Changes Due to Tree Expansion into Tundra."
"Project activities will connect these four U.S. universities with scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences in support of field work in remote northern Siberian field plots, while strengthening international collaborations," Sheshukov said.
Several pairs of weather monitoring stations in the western Siberia Plains will be instrumented to supplement unique 50-year historical observation data with new measurements of micrometeorology, snow, tree-scale sap flows, and subsurface moisture and ice. Present and future surface-energy and hydrologic conditions will be simulated using remote-sensing and computer modeling.
"This will generate knowledge and unique products on climate and land-use change effects that will enhance our understanding of time-space variability of Arctic processes," Sheshukov said, "as well as aid in verification of Arctic system models."
Societal questions about the role of the Arctic in global environmental change will be addressed by communicating research outcomes to Arctic communities and the general public. Exhibits are planned at three museums, including the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, in addition to public research seminars, and documentaries showcasing the research in social and news media.
"I am very excited about this opportunity," Sheshukov said. "Agreements with three U.S. museums to host exhibits and create a documentary from this project will be an interesting adventure by itself."