Tundra – Pumping Carbon

Science Diary: Tundra – Pumping Carbon

Music; Ambience: air pump

TS: “What we’re going to do is seal the jars. and then, I’m going to use this funky contraption to scrub out any CO2 that’s there from the air.”

JM: Out in the Alaskan tundra with his carbon-scrubbing air pump, ecologist Ted Schuur is studying the impact of climate change on this remote ecosystem. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Ted is trying to figure out if the rate of carbon being released from the permafrost has changed in recent decades. Permafrost is soil that stays below freezing year-round.

TS: “This is a little air pump that I’m going to turn on, and air will circulate from the jar through a trap that scrubs out carbon dioxide, and then, it returns the air back to the jar. The reason why we’re doing that is that when we do that radiocarbon age, we want carbon dioxide just from the plant respiration, but when I close the jar, obviously, there’s air from around where we’re sitting. So, I’m essentially getting rid of all that by doing this.” Air pump ambience. “What you essentially hear is this air pump moving. And it’s just taking air out of the jar, going through this soda lime that’s taking out all the carbon dioxide. That air without the carbon dioxide is returned back to the jar.” [air pump ambience continues.]

JM: Once air samples are collected from several locations at the site, the jars will be sent to Ted’s lab for radiocarbon analysis. These test results will give the age of the carbon gas collected from living plants, typically a week or two weeks old. Other tests will show that the age of the carbon released by the permafrost is much older. Both sets of data are needed to determine the amount of carbon being released by thawing permafrost.

TS: A significant release of permafrost carbon into the atmosphere could speed up global warming. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.

Tundra - Pumping Carbon

How would you measure the release of carbon from the vast landscape of Alaska's tundra? Think small.
Air Date:07/05/2016
Scientist:
Transcript:

Science Diary: Tundra - Pumping Carbon

Music; Ambience: air pump

TS: "What we're going to do is seal the jars. and then, I'm going to use this funky contraption to scrub out any CO2 that's there from the air."

JM: Out in the Alaskan tundra with his carbon-scrubbing air pump, ecologist Ted Schuur is studying the impact of climate change on this remote ecosystem. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Ted is trying to figure out if the rate of carbon being released from the permafrost has changed in recent decades. Permafrost is soil that stays below freezing year-round.

TS: "This is a little air pump that I'm going to turn on, and air will circulate from the jar through a trap that scrubs out carbon dioxide, and then, it returns the air back to the jar. The reason why we're doing that is that when we do that radiocarbon age, we want carbon dioxide just from the plant respiration, but when I close the jar, obviously, there's air from around where we're sitting. So, I'm essentially getting rid of all that by doing this." Air pump ambience. "What you essentially hear is this air pump moving. And it's just taking air out of the jar, going through this soda lime that's taking out all the carbon dioxide. That air without the carbon dioxide is returned back to the jar." [air pump ambience continues.]

JM: Once air samples are collected from several locations at the site, the jars will be sent to Ted's lab for radiocarbon analysis. These test results will give the age of the carbon gas collected from living plants, typically a week or two weeks old. Other tests will show that the age of the carbon released by the permafrost is much older. Both sets of data are needed to determine the amount of carbon being released by thawing permafrost.

TS: A significant release of permafrost carbon into the atmosphere could speed up global warming. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.