Coal mine dust hastens Arctic snow melt

Coal mine dust lowers spectral reflectance of Arctic snow by up to 84 percent
Collecting spectral reflectance measurements of surface snow with corresponding snow samples in Northern Svalbard. Credit: Alia Khan / University of Colorado Boulder

Dust released by an active coal mine in Svalbard, Norway, reduced the spectral reflectance of nearby snow and ice by up to 84 percent, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research.

The study illustrates the significant, localized role that dark-colored particulates—which absorb more solar radiation than light-colored snow and keep more heat closer to the Earth's surface—can play in hastening Arctic ice melt.

The study was published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

Unblemished snow and ice have a very high spectral albedo, a measurement used to indicate how effectively a given surface reflects solar energy. Over time, airborne black carbon particles (from soot or automobile emissions, for example) or other mineral dust can travel long distances in the atmosphere and settle on snow and glaciers, lowering the overall albedo.

To study the localized effects of coal dust on an area with high spectral reflectance, CU Boulder researchers focused on an active coal mine in Svalbard, Norway, located on a sparsely populated island north of the Arctic Circle. The researchers collected snow and ice samples from four sites at varying distances from the mine, with some samples being visibly dirtier than others.

Coal mine dust hastens Arctic snow melt
Collecting spectral reflectance measurements of surface snow with corresponding snow samples next to Mine 7 near Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Credit: Alia Khan / University of Colorado Boulder

The researchers then measured the light absorption capacity of each sample, adjusting for environmental factors such as snow grain size and location relative to the mine. Overall, the study concluded that coal dust had a strong but localized effect, reducing the albedo in the immediate area by up to 84 percent.

The findings may provide a foundation for similar research using satellites and remote sensing techniques in far-flung areas.

"The extreme contrast between and dust at this particular site gave us a baseline to develop algorithms that we can now use to take future measurements in areas that aren't easily accessible," said lead study author Alia Khan, a post-doctoral researcher in CU Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center and former graduate student at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).

The findings may also provide context for future policymaking decisions regarding the potential expansion of mining the coal-rich Arctic region, especially in light of ongoing permafrost thaw that may allow more land-based drilling operations.

"We hope these ground-based spectral measurements could be used in the management of future energy development in the Arctic, especially for mines that may be unavailable for ground-based observations, but may be large enough to be visible by satellite," said Khan.


Explore further

Understanding the impact of snow's reflectance

More information: Impacts of coal dust from an active mine on the spectral reflectance of Arctic surface snow in Svalbard, Norway, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1002/2016JD025757 , http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016JD025757/full
Citation: Coal mine dust hastens Arctic snow melt (2017, February 1) retrieved 23 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-02-coal-hastens-arctic.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
59 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 01, 2017
Our planet being Ruined by Greedy Empires right in front of your face for decades upon decades now ! We NEED RENEWABLES ! ! ! !

Feb 01, 2017
Our earth being devestated by those with no regard to the very planet that keeps them alive.

Feb 01, 2017
We NEED RENEWABLES ! ! ! !
renewables = more coal
"In Germany and Japan less nuclear means more coal but not more renewables"
http://polet.netw...nst-coal

Feb 02, 2017
No..... Renewables = sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat—which are renewable (naturally replenished). Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels for transportation.

Antigoracel sock wins more bananas.

Feb 02, 2017
damsill, maybe you could re-word your statement to say, Our earth is being devastated by those with no regard to the very One who made them and keeps them alive. This puts thing in a very different perspective, depending on your worldview.

Feb 02, 2017
...Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels...
... and it also includes COAL, and excludes carbon-free nuclear power thanks to fearmongers and faux-greens that favor the fossil fuel industry.
"Japanese government planning to build 45 new coal fired power stations to diversify supply" - Fev 01, 2017
http://www.abc.ne.../8224302

Feb 07, 2017
Germany is the world leader in implementing wind and solar power. Surprisingly (well, not to me) its coal usage is increasing at the same time. Between shutting down their nuclear and the needed online backup for finicky wind/solar production it seems that coal provides the only real answer.

Go Green (err, I mean Black)!

Feb 07, 2017
In Germany, during the winter, solar panels, even covered by snow, can produce a lot of electricity to keep residences warm with help of coal of course.
https://www.welt....ro-2.jpg
http://media.gett...62334376
http://www.sma.de...any.html

Feb 09, 2017
...Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels...
... and it also includes COAL, and excludes carbon-free nuclear power thanks to fearmongers and faux-greens that favor the fossil fuel industry.
"Japanese government planning to build 45 new coal fired power stations to diversify supply" - Fev 01, 2017
http://www.abc.ne.../8224302

Who cares willieturdie antigoralicale sock COAL needs to be discontinued/factories shut DOWN! THAT is the point, are you suffering from tunnel syndrome.... again ?

Feb 09, 2017
damsill, maybe you could re-word your statement to say, Our earth is being devastated by those with no regard to the very One who made them and keeps them alive. This puts thing in a very different perspective, depending on your worldview.

No The statetement is meant to be what it was written to be antigoracle sock. We see plenty of bs rewording done by you and your socks, the facts is always left out, fortunately that part is always being exposed right here for everyone to see ;)

Feb 09, 2017
If you don't like coal, then please feel free to disconnect from the electrical grid, sell you car, grow all your own food, get off the web, and sit at home and freeze.

Take your pompous smugness and righteousness to your own doom. You certainly have the right to go and off yourself, don't expect those of us with common sense to follow you.

Feb 09, 2017
off course i don't like coal. I'm off the grid, have been so for many years, there is endless of alternative options that work well, what have YOU done to Recover the earth from absolute fossil fuel incl the damage to earth and pollution created by COAL.
Your mindset exaggerate's the problem, that way, earth will become the next mars, but what do you care for healing the planet and it's people.

Feb 09, 2017
I'm off the grid, have been so for many years, there is endless of alternative options that work well...
It seems that gskam shared with you his technological technology of converting greenies' fibs into perpetual motion to power electrical cars, homes, industries, and the entire world, the universe, oh gosh! limitless energy.


Feb 09, 2017
Nope, to many the change will be gradual, but continuing on a destructive pathe set by ignorance will not heal the earth, and the change will only happen if everyone works together.

Feb 09, 2017
I am still grid-connected, with the PV and EV. That lets me avoid storage, as I use the grid to "store" what I produce, and use it later. We will add storage later, since I live in earthquake country in the Bay Area.

No, my use of renewables does not increase coal use, since we outlawed it long ago in California.

Feb 09, 2017
I am still grid-connected, with the PV and EV.
Then please share your excess of electric power with the grid to help the Ivanpah solar plant.
"Ivanpah solar plant, built to limit greenhouse gases, is burning more natural gas"
"The behemoth Ivanpah solar power plant built with federal subsidies to combat climate change is using increasing amounts of natural gas, a greenhouse-gas-emitting fuel, state and federal data show."
"The most recent numbers from the California Air Resources Board show that in 2015, the plant's second year of operation, carbon emissions from Ivanpah's gas use jumped by 48.4 percent to 68,676 metric tons."
http://www.pe.com...pah.html

Feb 09, 2017
Gkam is on the right path. YOU Convert over to Green energy and start bringing YOUR part to bettering our future.

Feb 09, 2017
Willie, . . Willie, settle down, buddy.

The discussion is about coal, which was outlawed in California decades ago.

How about where you live and breathe?

Feb 09, 2017
Gkam is on the right path
No, george lies about being on the right path in order to scam people like you.

He doesnt own PV or EV. Respect the people like willie who have gone to the trouble of confirming the obvious.

Feb 09, 2017
proof ? respect a well known lying climate denier, you gotta be joking ?

Feb 09, 2017
Sorry there is no scam's wrt to the Scientific Facts and Evidence about climate change, there is however lots of trolls trying to bend the facts and trying to make their own mindless based opinions perceived as evidence, of course this hilariously backfires everyday.

If he is a troll, expose the lies, i do it it everyday.

Feb 09, 2017
Sorry there is no scam's wrt to the Scientific Facts and Evidence about climate change, there is however lots of trolls trying to bend the facts and trying to make their own mindless based opinions perceived as evidence, of course this hilariously backfires everyday.

If he is a troll, expose the lies, i do it it everyday.
This has been done ad infinitum by multiple people here. Stumpy has accumulated a file. Ask him.

But as youve been around for awhile I suspect you are just defending this psychopath for selfish purposes. Pack mentality. Dogs of a feather.

Feb 09, 2017
...Scientific Facts and Evidence about climate change...
A clear form of Climate Change "denialism" is shutting down reliable sources of carbon-free energy to give place to intermittent renewables backed up by coal and/or natural gas/fracking within a context where cost-effective batteries/energy storage does not exist and is ever far from reality.
"The anti-nuclear movement should be renamed the pro-climate change movement."

Feb 09, 2017
Intermittent renewables is still better than permanent fossil fuel driven energy sources... carbon free ? you seemed to refer to nuclear energy, that's a debate all on its own however.

Feb 09, 2017
.... to make their own mindless based opinions perceived as evidence, of course this hilariously backfires everyday.

If he is a troll, expose the lies, i do it it everyday.
This has been done ad infinitum by multiple people here. Stumpy has accumulated a file. Ask him.

But as youve been around for awhile I suspect you are just defending this psychopath for selfish purposes. Pack mentality. Dogs of a feather.

no friction Otto, i know you have been around for as long or even longer than I, i don't see you as a climate threat...but hopefully it stays that way, you seem to be careful in your stance, i'll leave it there, I do see you regularly putting gkam down, and i respect Stumpy's opinion on this site, so will keep that in mind, i upvoted gkam as his opinions sometimes reflect positively towards the outside, but i can see you really don't like him.

Feb 09, 2017
Helo, It is not my opinions, many of which they share, but the fact I am real, George Kamburoff, and proved my assertions of experience they challenged. I guess they are used to being the officials here, but they screamed "LIAR! and "BULLSHIT!" when I discussed my service experience.

Proving it to them just made it worse, like it would do to Trump.

Feb 10, 2017
@hm
Helo, It is not my opinions, many of which they share, but the fact I am real, George Kamburoff, and proved my assertions of experience they challenged. I guess they are used to being the officials here, but they screamed "LIAR! and "BULLSHIT!" when I discussed my service experience
-Note the egocentricity, the grandiosity? This poster makes up facts daily about himself and science.

Easy to conclude hes a psychopath even without the egomania. Its not a matter of 'like'.

"The high incidence of psychopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth."

-its a matter of responsibility. This person should never go unchallenged, unexposed.

Feb 10, 2017
Yes, we see the fixations on others these incomplete folk get into. otto brings up psychopathy, in an embarrassingly-juvenile and transparent cry for help.

But you will not get the help you need here, no matter how many times you bleat for help.

Feb 11, 2017
Intermittent renewables are a success in terms of marketing and reliance on coal.
"Harsh Winter: How Coal, Lignite And Gas Saved Germany From Disaster"
"Germany's transition to renewable energy seemed to pause on January 17. In the central and southern regions heavy clouds covered the sky, paired with fog on the ground. The sun barely reached the solar roofs. There was also very little wind that day."
http://www.thegwp...isaster/
"German electricity was nearly 10 times dirtier than France's in 2016"
https://static1.s...mat=750w
http://www.enviro...-in-2016
"Germany has built more coal-fired power stations in the last 10 yrs than any other EU country in the last 30 yrs."
http://climateana...2017.pdf

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more