Sunday, July 5, 2015

Zero Power Warming

A primary goal of Ecosystem and Earth System Models is to project the impact of future global change scenarios.  Those projections are often dependent on model assumptions about how ecosystems respond to novel climates.  Experimental manipulations provide an opportunity to test those model assumptions and provide new information to improve model skill.

The Arctic is projected to warm by 5-11°C over the next hundred years.  Understanding how plant structural and functional traits respond to projected temperature change is a critical uncertainty in Arctic systems but evaluating model assumptions is challenging in a system where access to reliable line power and operational constraints rule out many approaches.  Passive warming has a long history in the Arctic but this approach is only able to elevate air temperature by 1-2°C.  At Brookhaven National Laboratory Keith Lewin developed a novel approach to elevate and modulate the temperature inside field enclosures and achieve markedly higher passive elevation and control of temperature.  Zero power warming (ZPW) uses solar energy to warm the enclosure and heat exchangers inside and outside the chamber to modulate temperature and prevent overheating.  Our Long Island prototype performed well and we were keen to evaluate the approach in Barrow.  As part of our 2015 NGEE Arctic field season we are testing Keith’s design on the BEO.

Over the past week Keith, Andrew McMahon and I have worked to install a ZPW chamber and a vented control chamber, near the sled shed on Cake Eater Road.  Keith assembled the chambers at Brookhaven then packed them up and shipped them to Barrow where we rebuilt them.  Yesterday we completed the build and the first day of data looks very promising. 

Compared to the vented control chamber the ZPW chamber was able to elevate and modulate air temperature.  This is exciting data for day one of operation and a nice treat for July 4th.

See the day-by-day progress on our twitter feed @bnl_test